Paul Clarke, who was prosecuted for possession of a shotgun, received a suspended sentence.
The judge found there were exceptional circumstances.
The consequence was that Paul Clarke walked free from court.
Following on from my blogpost Paul Clarke: An Anatomy of an Injustice, I want to here explain why this outcome, whilst welcome, means that this case remains an injustice.
Justice should of course be an essential quality of the judicial process as a whole.
In that way, the exercise of the judge's discretion to find exceptional circumstances meant - perhaps - that the process as a whole had worked.
However, when a case involves the double jeopardy of a strict liability offence and a mandatory minimum sentence, then there should be anxious scrutiny of decision-making earlier in the process: namely the decision by the police to charge and the decision of the CPS to prosecute.
The finding by the judge of exceptional circumstances necessarily throws into question the soundness of these two crucial decisions. The police decision to charge appears to me to be incompatible with the relevant home office guidance; the decision of the CPS that it was in the public interest to prosecute appears to me inconsistent with the only version of facts before them: the evidence of Mr Clarke.
It is not enough for such decision-makers to pass ultimate responsibility to a court in circumstances such as that of Mr Clarke. Their administrative decisions had the real effect of someone facing a five year sentence, unless a court somehow found exceptional circumstances.
In particular, it is, in my view, wholly inappropriate for such administrative decisions to be made to charge and prosecute when the "exceptional circumstances" before the court were also before the police and CPS.
When deploying the coercive power of criminal sanctions, justice requires that each stage in a criminal prosecution should also be as just as possible - and not only the process as a whole.
In my opinion, this did not happen in the Paul Clarke case, and that is the injustice done to Mr Clarke.
By way of footnote: a lot of further information and allegations, some scurrilous and scandalous, is now available on this case. Even when I wrote the Anatomy blogpost I had been supplied with unsourced information, mostly discrediting either to Mr Clarke or to the police officers. However, as an exercise in evidence and source based legal reporting, I preferred to concentrate on the official decision-making process.
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