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Another Disgraceful Prosecution

22 June 2010

12:53 AM

22 June 2010

12:53 AM

Like the Devil’s Kitchen, I’m late getting to this story travesty. The most enraging aspect of it is, of course, that one can no longer be surprised by this kind of behaviour. Yet again the police and the criminal justice system prove themselves out of touch with common sense or decency.

A grandmother has been jailed for five years for possessing a "family heirloom" World War II pistol. Gail Cochrane, 53, had kept the gun for 29 years following the death of her father, who had been in the Royal Navy.
Police found the weapon, a Browning self-loading pistol, during a search of her home in Dundee while looking for her son. She admitted illegal possession of the firearm, an offence with a minimum five-year jail term under Scots law.
Cochrane told the High Court in Edinburgh that she had never contemplated she might be committing a crime by keeping the gun or that she might need to get a licence for the weapon. She said: "I thought it was just a war trophy."
Defence solicitor advocate Jack Brown argued that the circumstances surrounding the case were exceptional and that it would be "draconian, unjust and disproportionate" to jail the grandmother-of-six.

Well of course they are. "Draconian, unjust and disproportionate" is only the beginning of it. Needless to say, this cut no ice with the judge:

However, Judge Lady Smith said: "I am not satisfied that a reasonable explanation has been put forward for not handing this gun into the authorities throughout the 29-year period she says she has had it in her possession."

The judge said she was unable to find herself satisfied that this was one of the rare cases in which exceptional circumstances existed.

She said: "The result is I have no alternative but to sentence Mrs Cochrane to a period of five years."

On the contrary, on the face of it the judge had every alternative. Indeed she admits as much before deciding that there’s nothing unusual about this case that could justify her applying some measure of basic common sense. Then again, if the authorities didn’t scurry around creating victimless crimes or persecuting the innocent then what on earth would they do with themselves all day long?

I dare say that a pedantic, literal interpretation of the gun laws shows that Mrs Cochrane is indeed guilty – but she’s not nearly as guilty as those responsible for the injustice of mandatory prison sentences or the creation of crimes for which there’s no defence possible – but you would have thought that at some point someone would have paused to wonder if this prosecution is actually in the public interest. Apparently not.

And so a 53-year old woman faces five years in chokey. And for what? For failing to give her father’s service revolver to the police. Then again, if she had taken the Browning to the polis then who knows, she might have been charged with possession of a firearm anyway.

Maybe there’s more to this case than meets the eye (and that possibility must be admitted) but, on the face of it at least, this seems to be an unusually monstrous perversion of justice – even by the lofty standards set by the narrow-minded goons who litter the criminal justice system. Then again too, our gun laws are a shambles and a nonsense so none of this should come as any surprise.

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