Saturday, March 10, 2007

Double Edged Gift

One of the Only Ones has received a taste of what it's like to be a regular citizen in modern day Britain after his retirement.

As a keen hiker, Brian Seaton was delighted to receive a Swiss Army Knife as a retirement gift from his colleagues in the force.

But the former chief inspector ended up back in the arms of the law after he tried to take it on a walking holiday in Spain.

His one-time comrades in the Leicestershire force questioned him and he was taken to court charged with possessing a knife in public without good reason.

Mr Seaton, 63, was dragged through the courts in a case that lasted nine months at a cost to the taxpayer of up to £10,000.

It turns out that the knife with three inch blade was in a wash-bag. When check-in staff told him his baggage was too heavy he transferred the bag to his carry on luggage- and the knife was detected by an X-ray machine. Seaton handed the knife over to the "authorities" and carried on his way. When he returned from holiday however, his non-Only One troubles were just beginning. He went to the police station to reclaim the SAK.

He was told officers wanted to interview him, and he agreed to be questioned but refused a formal caution.

A file was passed on to the Crown Prosecution Service, which decided there was enough evidence to prosecute Mr Seaton. The father of two said: 'When I found out what was happening I couldn't believe it.'

He was finally cleared on Wednesday after District Judge David Meredith heard he needed the knife to open tins and cut food while hiking in the mountains.

The judge said: 'It was a good reason. That good reason is not invalidated because you suddenly enter a certain part of the airport.'

I wonder how many non ex-police officers would have been similarly cleared by a judge? I mean, hikers can also carry tin openers and knife/fork/spoon sets- items more suited to the tasks in question. Perhaps his former Only One status did come into play here?

As a commenter at the Daily Mail notes, "As a former policeman, Brian should be aware that laws introduced to combat criminals are only used against the easily targeted law abiding folk who give truthful answers and aren't eligible for legally-aided lawyers."

Modern Britain- where you need a "good reason" to carry a small tool noted throughout the world for its general purpose utility.

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