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A Self-confessed womble picked up a gun he obtained in the street since he assumed it was an inoffensive BB gun, a court learned.
Michael Harding, 33, of no established residence, was detained in London Road, Basildon, following a stop check by police who were looking for a knifeman, just after 11.40pm on October 6.

Michael Harding is facing a compulsory prison punishment of up to five years after he admitted possession of a gun at a hearing in January. Judge John Lodge, at Basildon Crown Court, is presiding over exceptional circumstances hearing, into if the decision should be decreased.

The court learned that displaced Michael Harding found a red drawstring bag on the pavement bordering the Barge pub, in High Road, Vange, and kicked it. Noticing it was heavy, Michael Harding peered within and saw the handle of a gun, a t-shirt, gloves and an exhausted shotgun cartridge, which he believed was a Clipper lighter.

He put the bag within his own black holdall with the purpose of maybe selling it later, but he was stopped by police five minutes later because he resembled the description of a wanted man. Michael Harding was detained and originally maintained he had not looked inside the bag. A Stanley knife was found in his possession at the police station but he was not charged and he is not alleged to have been the man police were looking for.

Mark Savage, mitigating, asked Harding if he had ever been associated with selling items seen on the street and requested him to explain skipping. He replied it’s where you go round and look for discarded items in skips. They call it wombling.

Mr. Harding rejected knowing the gun was real and stated if he had made it home he would have called the police.

Cyrus Shroff, prosecuting, asked Harding why he picked up a bag that did not belong to him. Harding replied, why not? It was heavy so I picked it up. It was nobody’s bag, it was just on the path.

One should be more concerned on whose gun it was in the first place since obviously whoever it belonged to must have had the intention of using it in some sort of crime, and the police should be examining on where the gun came from in the first place, just in case this person that the gun belonged to has any other guns that they will use to perform a crime.

Obviously, it is an offense that Michael Harding committed, however, it’s not the crime of the century. Of course, Michael Harding should get some sort of non-custodial punishment, but his crime is not an atrocity, and he did not take the gun with the intention of shooting anyone, he just took it with the intention of selling it on.

Clearly, selling the gun on to somebody else could have had consequences, like a ripple effect, but Michael Harding did not think of that at the time, in fact, he did not think at all.

Michael Harding stated he was quite glad he chose to pick it up since it could have got into the wrong hands. He is certainly right, it could have got into the wrong hands, however, obviously his plans were to sell it on, therefore it could have got into the wrong hands anyhow.

Nevertheless, 5 years jail time for simply plucking up a bag from the street that he had no inkling what was in it, is a lengthy punishment, reflecting that his activities were simply an act of carelessness and ignorance.

Michael Harding’s testimony might be incredibly suspicious, and we know that he’s extending the truth to save his own skin, nevertheless, jail time isn’t invariably the answer, rehabilitation is. The case continues.

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