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Alice H
Alice H, Solicitor/Partner
Category: Law
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Experience:  Partner in national law firm
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I purchased a plastic toy iPhone that produces an electric

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I purchased a plastic toy iPhone that produces an electric shock for under £10 whilst on holiday in Thailand. I put it in my locked suitcase in its original packaging as I truly believed it to be nothing but a joke gimmick toy. It was not hidden in any way but when my case was checked upon arriving in the UK I was arrested as the border control stated that it was in fact classified as a stun gun and have now informed me that they are charging me with firearms offense section 5(1A)(A) which I have seen from the CPS website carries a mandatory sentence of 5 years. The fact that it appeared to be nothing but a cheap plastic practical joke electric shock gimmick lead me to believe that it was harmless.
I am 45 years old and hard working and have never been arrested before in my life. My daughter suffers from schizophrenia and anxiety and I have a good job. What are the chances of me not getting a custodial sentence? This has all been a terrible mistake
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Alice H replied 2 years ago.
My name is***** and I'm happy to help with your question today.
Do you have representation in this matter?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
No, They only charged me on Friday so I have not arranged an appointment with a solicitor yet but the first hearing is magistrates court next week so if I plead not guilty, I understand that it will be adjourned anyway. Giving me time to get a solicitor.I have wrote a letter with the intention of giving it to the court on Tuesday explaining that I had no indication that the item was classified as a stun gun and that I am hard working and would never break the law intentionally.I agree that there must be law and order to maintain a civil society and I have always believed that punishments are not severe enough to deter people from offending. But even if the penalty for having a stun gun was life imprisonment. I still would have had bought it as I honestly did not believe that's what it was.What is my best course of action? I don't want to appear to be hiding behind a solicitor but I also want to defend myself correctly
Expert:  Alice H replied 2 years ago.
OK, understood.
The court won't take a plea from you because the charge is 'indictable only' which means only a Crown Court can deal with the matter.
So when you appear at the Magistrates Court they will simply fix a date for a preliminary hearing at the Crown Court and that will be it.
At the Crown Court you need a solicitor and barrister. You should be able to get legal aid which will make legal costs cheaper (although depending on your circumstances you may have to make a contribution towards the cost).
It doesn't appear that you have a defence.
Your only real argument is that the mandatory minimum sentence should not be imposed on the grounds of "exceptional circumstances".
The court has discretion not to impose the minimum term, if of the opinion that there are "exceptional circumstances" relating to either of the offences, or to the offender which justifies it not doing so. The exceptional circumstances must be stated in open court.
Examples of "exceptional circumstances":
Where imposing the minimum term would result in an arbitrary and disproportionate sentence (R. v. Rehman; R .v. Wood [2006] 1 Cr.App.R.(S) 77 CA);
Circumstances of the offender- e.g. unfit to serve a five year sentence or is of advanced years; age and ill-health ( R. v. Shaw [2011] 2 Cr.App. R.(S) 65 CA)
But may now have a stricter approach so that only "truly exceptional circumstances" apply (Att. Gen's Reference (No 43 of 2009) (R v Bennett); R v Williams [2010] 1 Cr.App.R (S) 100;
Must take in all the relevant aspects of the case - not just the type of weapon in question e.g. whether the weapon was foisted upon them ( R. v. Harrison [2006] 2 Cr. App.R (S) 56, CA);
Aggressive and debilitation (possibly fatal) illness of the offender's young child ( Att.Gen's Ref. (No 23 of 2009) (R. v. Merrion) [2010] 1 Cr.App.R (S) 70 CA;)
But leaving a firearm in an insecure bedsit after deciding not to use it to commit suicide was held not to be "exceptional" (R. v. Robinson [2010] 2 Cr.App. R(S) 20 CA).
The exceptional circumstances that apply to your case will be the circumstances of purchase, your good character, loss of job and fundamentally your daughters illness.
You will need a good lawyer to argue your case. If you let me know where in the country you are I can suggest a firm.
Expert:  Alice H replied 2 years ago.
The other thing your lawyer might be able to do is negotiate a plea to a lesser charge where the mandatory minimum sentence does to apply
Alice H and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Yes, I have now spoke to a solicitor and he has defended others in the same situation and has successfully negotiated for the lesser plea and had the case heard at the magistrates court and they avoided a custodial sentence. The problem I have is that it's going to cost me £420 solicitors costs for each appearance all because I made a stilly mistake. I am a professional Jack Sparrow lookalike and work with many children's charities so I hope that a conviction does not affect me doing this as I need to provide a full disclosure of any criminal history to the charities and clients when working with children. I doubt that there's any chance of getting away with no conviction as I will have to plead guilty if offered the lesser plea. I'm hoping that it can be deal with in no more than two hearings.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hi,
It went to magistrates court and has been sent to crown court for the 5th January.
I have instructed a solicitor and asked him to go for the lesser plea of having a realistic imitation firearm as I believe due to the power of the suspected stun gun, that's all it is because when trying it on myself, I could withstand the shock and did not get stunned.

If they refuse the lesser plea, it will get adjourned so we can get an experts report on the device.

If it proves it's fake, that's great but if not, my only option to hope they agree to a guilty plea to a lesser charge of a stun gun and not a disguised stun gun and hope I can get a suspended sentence at the worst.

I have been quoted 10 thousand pounds if it goes that far as I am earning too much to get legal aid.

I hope that I can get through this, I do not have 10 thousand pound so will need to borrow it and put myself into more debt.

Thanks for your help, I'm properly represented now even if it is going to cost so much.