Thursday, 17 June 2010

Grandmothers, guns, and goldfish

Via LPUK, I found this BBC News story:
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.
It's hard to believe that Cochrane was ignorant of the law, and in any case it is dangerous to allow ignorance of the law as an excuse, but that principle only works when laws are few and reasonable. Today I'm sure there are thousands of unreasonable laws of which I am ignorant. How could I possibly keep up with New Labour's overeager legislature? Even Baroness Scotland, a Home Office minister, fell foul of Labour's laws on illegal immigration.

Coincidentally, on Russell Howard's Good News last night I saw an interview with another grandmother who has suffered from ridiculous laws, vigorously enforced:
A pet shop owner who was electronically tagged after selling a goldfish to a 15-year-old boy has said she was "stunned" by the sentence.

Joan Higgins, 66, pleaded guilty at Trafford Magistrates' Court to selling an animal to a person under the age of 16 unaccompanied by an adult.
The BBC article goes on to quote Jonathan Coupe, executive councillor at Trafford Council, explaining that
the "main reason we took this prosecution was because the pet shop owner had caused unnecessary suffering to a cockatiel".
Perhaps she did deserve some punishment, but her conviction should surely have been for the cruelty, rather than the sale of the goldfish. It is extremely dangerous when prosecutors have a range of bad laws up their sleeves, ready to throw at those who they have decided are deserving of punishment.

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