Sunday, May 08, 2005

Hawthorn Blossoms From The Curate's Hedge

Interesting. On Friday and Saturday I started getting Google hits for 'Alicia Monckton assault' and 'Rod Liddle arrest'.

And I see this in today's Indie.

Don't worry Rod - it's good to clear the air with a blazing row occasionally. I bet he didn't need the Viagra on Thursday night ... but the fact that he was arrested without a complaint due to new PC domestic violence guidelines is likely to propel him even more quickly along the path from right-on lefty to born-again reactionary. Good, isn't it ?

Elsewhere a correspondent in Bradford sends me two contrasting stories, both involving people 'of previous good character' .

A right villain gets deservedly banged up for his hideous crime.

A highly-respected gun enthusiast has been jailed for a year after he admitted illegally possessing prohibited weapons and ammunition.
Engineer Roy Johnson had also been using lathe equipment at his home to convert pellet-firing handguns into unlawful cartridge-firing weapons, and last Friday a judge said he had to jail him for such offences.
The 52-year-old, of Grafton Road, Keighley, was said to have had an interest in guns for many years and had taken part in shooting competitions alongside police officers, but Judge Peter Benson said he had deliberately flouted the new firearms legislation brought in following the Dunblane massacre.
"What concerns me is that he was a man who knew exactly what the law was, and not only did he deliberately flout it by acquiring prohibited weapons, but he manufactured prohibited weapons,'' Judge Benson told Johnson's barrister Rebecca Young.
The judge said he was absolutely convinced that it was simply a hobby without any sinister motive, but he pointed out that some of the weapons, albeit not the most lethal ones, had not been locked away and could have fallen into other people's hands.
"In this city, in particular, there is a growing culture of gun crime which leads to severe injury and death,'' said Judge Benson.
Johnson, who is married with two sons, faced a minimum sentence of five years behind bars in relation to some of the firearms offences he admitted, but Judge Benson was persuaded by Miss Young that there were exceptional circumstances which justified a lesser sentence. Johnson, who had been a member of gun clubs in the past and did hold a firearms certificate relating to the lawful possession of three air-cartridge revolvers, pleaded guilty earlier this month to possessing a prohibited German revolver and possessing an Italian revolver without a certificate.
He also admitted manufacturing two prohibited German revolvers and further charges relating to the unlawful possession of ammunition.
Prosecutor Gavin Howie explained how the offences came to light after Customs officers at Dover became suspicious about a package containing a blank-firing starting pistol. Information was passed to West Yorkshire Police and a search warrant was executed at Johnson's home last November.
In total officers seized 19 weapons from the house, including 14 revolvers, and later examination revealed that 11 of them should have had firearms certificates.
Mr Howie said that Johnson had fully cooperated with the police and had already signed waivers in respect of about £1,000 worth of equipment that had been seized.
"The police believe Mr Johnson has learned his lesson, although they appreciate the seriousness of the situation he now finds himself in,'' said Mr Howie.
Miss Young pointed out that the majority of the prohibited firearms were held in a safe and other weapons were kept in briefcases.
She said the police were aware of Mr Johnson's interest in guns because of his repeated applications for firearms certificates over many years and his involvement with numerous shooting and gun clubs.
Miss Young confirmed that Johnson had also competed with officers at one club and had a genuine interest in competition shooting.
"He saw the modification of weapons as a challenge and nothing more than that,'' she said.
"It was certainly not his intention to use them. Once they had been modified they were put away as one would a jigsaw puzzle, and he would then move on to the next challenge.''
She said the offences were the result of ignorance and gross stupidity, and it was an extremely hard lesson which he had now learned.
Miss Young said Johnson was an outstanding member of the community who would go out of his way to help charities, friends and neighbours.
The court heard that Johnson had an 82-year-old mother who faced having to go into a home if he received a lengthy prison sentence, and it was also said his wife would not be able to keep up the mortgage payments on their house.
Judge Benson said he had read glowing testimonials in support of Johnson and it was distressing to see a man like him standing in the dock charged with such grave offences.
He noted that Johnson had handed in weapons he held at the time the law was changed, so he was fully aware of the changing climate regarding such guns.
Judge Benson said some weapons had been left lying around and there was a danger that someone might have broken into his home and made use of them.

And a poor victim of society gets a tap on the wrist for her teensy error of judgement.

A woman cleaner who admitted stealing money from an 86-year-old pensioner client has escaped with a police caution.
She was caught in a police sting operation after two marked £10 notes were taken from the man's wallet and found on the cleaner.
But the police, under advice from the Crown Prosecution Service, could not take the matter further because of insufficient evidence and the cleaner's previous good character.
Now the man's daughter, who hired the cleaner, has hit out in an open letter to readers of the Keighley News. The Keighley News is keeping family details anonymous to protect the pensioner.
She said: "If I allowed my dog to foul Silsden Park and not clean up, I would be fined up to £1,000.
"If I drive my car through a speed camera at 33mph in a 30mph zone, I would be fined £60. Would I be let off with a caution? I think not.
"I am absolutely disgusted by it all that she could get away with a caution and not even a fine."
A spokesman for the West Yorkshire Crown Prosecution Service said: "After consideration of all the evidence and taking into account the remorse of the defendant and the fact that she was of previous good character, both ourselves and the police felt a caution was the most appropriate penalty."
Police were called after the man's daughter became concerned about money going missing.
They set up surveillance equipment but did not successfully prove it was the cleaner taking the money. They later recorded the numbers of two £10 notes and put them in the man's wallet. After the notes were removed, police challenged the cleaner, who admitted taking the two notes.
Det Chief Insp Terry Long, of Keighley police, admitted the result was "probably a little bit unsatisfactory" for the family.
He said police had taken the advice of the CPS before coming to their decision.
Because of insufficient evidence, the cleaner's previous good character and because she had not been in trouble before, a caution was handed out.
Det Chief Insp Long said: "We have done everything we could in this situation.
"We took time to put in surveillance equipment and other methods to try and detect this and we have managed to do so."
The cleaner told the Keighley News that she admitted taking the two £10 notes because she thought it was her cleaning money.

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