Read here the on-going story, written by the person concerned, of Stuart Jarman and his wife. They are currently in Virginia, USA, working on a claim for political asylum. The local Senator's office has taken an interest in the claim and is negotiating with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The sorry tale as to why British Subjects should have to resort to such a measure makes for illuminating reading.
The Avon and Somerset Constabulary appointed an Inspector from the HQ Complaints & Discipline Unit to investigate this matter. That Inspector forwarded a report to the Police Complaints Authority (PCA). As expected, the PCA exonerated Avon & Somerset and merely made mild criticism of some of the personnel involved: see Stuart's reply to this obvious whitewash.
It all began in the autumn of 1996. The incoming Labour Party administration had promised legislation to `eradicate' firearms from Great Britain. As Secretary of my local shooting club I joined thousands of other law abiding gun owners in the biggest, and what was to be probably the most peaceful, democratic protest the City of London had ever seen. I had previously written personally to Mr. Blair (then in opposition) and several other leading Parliamentary figures on the issue of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (RKBA). Most replied with a courteous letter of acknowledgment stating their (or their party's) position on the matter. Mr Blair's office did not.
On the day of the march cameras were much in evidence as we walked the two miles from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square chatting amicably with the London Bobbies who escorted us along the route. I'll never know how many people were there, but easily in excess of 30,000 as the square and all approach roads were completely filled with protesters by the time we arrived, and yet not a missile was thrown nor a single voice raised in anger. My wife had just been discharged from hospital and was still in a wheelchair then. Noticing this the stewards arranged for us (and others) to come to the front so that we could hear the speeches. Again, cameras seemed to be everywhere. Afterwards a delegation was chosen to deliver a giant petition (several boxes containing thousands of signatures) to 10 Downing Street and my wife was one of those chosen. We stood outside the Prime Minister's official residence while a veritable battery of photographers did their work. An official took our names but there was surely nothing sinister in this. Or was there? Despite the immense amount of photography not one picture of the demonstration appeared in either local or national press and neither was it mentioned on TV or radio. Just one newspaper carried a small, six or seven line, paragraph tucked away in the sports section.
As Secretary of a gun club I had regular dealings with the police on various matters relating to club issues and on behalf of individual members. After the London demonstration things began to become suddenly difficult: calls not returned, paperwork taking longer than usual to be processed, etc. My wife applied for a firearms certificate (FAC) in her own right. Background and security checks should have been a mere formality as she was married to and living with the police "person of contact" (PoC) for the club she had joined! For some strange reason the police demanded her/our marriage certificate (the original not a photocopy) which she duly filed. After five more weeks had passed, during which time her cheque had been cashed but no FAC was forthcoming, I called the police. When I asked for an explanation for the delay I was told they were "waiting for some information from the gun club." The gentleman I spoke to was somewhat taken aback when I told him that I was the club secretary concerned and to date no-one had asked me anything. A few days later my wife's FAC arrived but not the marriage certificate. I called the police and was told it had been mailed back to us "some time ago," although when I asked exactly when nobody could tell me. I told them it was unbelievably bad practice not to record the sending of legal documents and would make an official complaint to the Chief Constable's Office. I was then told I could have a photocopy of their file copy (i.e. a copy of a copy) but that the original had definitely already been mailed back to us. The next day an inspector arrived with a folder containing this alleged photocopy which he left with us. Unfortunately no-one in Police HQ had realised that we were married in the USA not Britain - this "copy" was on US Letter not European A4 photocopy paper - it was, in fact, the original document!
It was about that time we began receiving demands threatening arrest and imprisonment for large amounts of taxes that we did not owe. This situation was cleared up after a pro bono attorney looked into our case. However one day in August 1997 whilst I was at work five police officers swooped on my home based on "an anonymous tip-off" that we had abducted a child. The child in question was in fact my fourteen years old daughter from my first marriage and staying with us by consent of the Family Court. Not only was she put in terror by the aggressive and confrontational attitude of the police officers but those officers threatened to arrest both my wife and my elderly mother (who is bedridden and totally disabled) for "obstructing" them. Thankfully this situation was resolved by a telephone call to the Court and the police left empty handed after some thirty minutes. My wife made a formal complaint about this incident but was persuaded to drop any further action when visited by a senior police officer several weeks later.
The next strange thing to happen was when I mailed an empty cartridge belt to my friend in Pennsylvania. A completely inert item packaged in the usual way with nothing suspicious about either package or contents. It was intercepted and held up for over four months while I was obliged to obtain an export license from the Dept. of Trade. As I was a customs officer myself many years ago I can confirm that while incoming overseas mail is monitored it is highly unusual for outgoing mail to be screened unless the sender or addressee has been identified as a criminal suspect. The export license itself is free and printed off at home using software provided on disk at public expense, so there is no question of evading any kind of tax or duty here, but the fact is my mail was intercepted. On whose orders though? (affidavit from Mr. Tom News can be supplied).
Matters came to a head with the police unlawfully arresting me on Friday, August 9th 2002. The following text is taken from my formal statement made to the Police Complaints Authority earlier this year.
As a legal registered FAC holder, I was taking a replica black powder musket and accessories to a local gun dealer for disposal on the day I sold my house. The weapon was padlocked inside an approved gun case, and hidden from view in the boot of my car, which had electronic central locking, secured in the approved manner against unauthorised use or theft.
En route to the gun shop I had an urgent call to my attorney's office to sign a last minute document and I parked my car at the rear of his office next to a restaurant. When I returned I discovered that the restaurant had called a wheel clamping firm to clamp my car and the clamper was still at the scene. When I attempted to remove the gun case from the boot of my car the clamper tried to seize it. As the registered owner it was legally incumbent upon me to keep it out of hands of unauthorised persons but, in order not to inflame the situation any further, I immediately backed off and made an emergency call to police control.
Some five minutes later Sergeant R. Millican of Southmead Police station arrived, accompanied by a constable (PC Trevorrow). It was then I realised I had inadvertently left my FAC at home, so I called my wife who got the document to the scene within a few minutes as we lived less than three miles away. Meanwhile I had paid the £50 to free my car and the clamper was allowed to leave the scene - despite the fact that my vehicle had obviously been broken into and the clamper had admitted entering the driver's compartment claiming it had been left unlocked. Locked or otherwise, this person had no lawful right to enter my vehicle, the police should have detained him for further questioning. They chose not to.
After inspecting my FAC Sgt. Millican said he was satisfied that I was legally entitled to possess the gun and praised my co-operative attitude. Sgt. Millican then asked to search my person and my car and I consented. PC Trevorrow discovered my medal ribbon and and asked about my military service. I replied conversationally and mentioned regarding the medal that I cared little for the conflict in Northern Ireland. PC Trevorrow told me I shouldn't have said that as it is where his wife comes from. I said that I had not meant to offend, but PC Trevorrow ignored me and continued strewing the contents of my glove compartment on the floor. Nothing that was taken was replaced and no respect whatsoever was shown for my property. PC Trevorrow found two receipts for rifles my wife and I had sold to another dealer the previous day with a note from the dealer to say that the serial numbers did not match the certificates. The licensing department of Avon and Somerset Constabulary had incorrectly entered the same serial number for two different rifles (of the same type) on both mine and my wife's FACs. Was this a clerical error - or an attempt to incriminate me? During the course of this search both officers noted that the central locking system of my car had been seriously damaged and an attempt had be made to remove the CD system.
I was asked to remain at the scene while Sgt. Millican made further inquiries by radio. As result of this radio call Sgt. Millican told me he was no longer satisfied that my FAC was valid and an armed police unit would be summoned to take possession of my musket. On the arrival of this unit I was taken to the Southmead police car and, out of earshot of the sergeant, I was formally arrested and cautioned by PC Trevorrow. I was not allowed to contact anyone or answer my cell phone when my wife was trying to call me. I was then taken to Southmead police station and held in a corridor while discussions went on elsewhere. Some thirty minutes later I was moved to an interview room and, some time later, asked to give my consent to a search of my home. The inference was clear: either consent to a search or, wait in a cell while a warrant was sought. Having nothing to hide I gave my consent and was permitted to drive my car home while the police followed.
This was the day I sold my house and all our belongings were packed to leave. The two officers spent almost an hour on what can only be described as a `fishing trip' where even my wife's underwear in a suitcase was searched in the hope of finding something incriminating. After seizing my wife's FAC and two non-functioning early 19th century pistols that had adorned our hearth the officers left, somewhat sheepishly. No apology was offered either to myself or my wife.
I immediately contacted Mr. Doug Glaister, Deputy Shooting Manager of the UK National Rifle Association, who was horrified at the way Avon and Somerset had quote, "over-stepped the mark." He assured me that I had done nothing to contravene either the letter or the spirit of current UK firearms legislation and put me on to his legal team. The very senior gentleman I spoke to there was not surprised given the fact that he had just recently quote "wiped the floor" with Avon and Somerset firearms department in another case of unlawful arrest. I happen to know the person at the centre of that case as I was a witness for the defence however I cannot definitely say that matter had any bearing on my treatment. After confirming Mr. Glaister's view that I was entirely innocent of any offense, we discussed my personal circumstances. As I was leaving the UK in 10 days, and had not been formally charged with any crime, he advised me to write to Avon and Somerset `voluntarily' surrendering both my wife's FAC and my own. Thereafter to take a holiday out of the force area until it was time to fly out of Britain as there was a grave danger that Avon and Somerset Constabulary may re-arrest me on some minor offence (conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace?) or under the Terrorism Act 2000 (which makes it a criminal offense, for example, to have a list of names of your elected representatives) in order to avert the very serious consequences of the formal complaint against them.
To conclude: I had my car damaged and broken into by a person who was still at the scene when the police arrived in response to my emergency call. Note that the conduct of the officers changed abruptly after a radio conversation with person or persons unknown at Avon and Somerset Police HQ. Despite being the victim I was arrested and held for a total of six hours while my person and property were searched. My wife, who was not involved in any way, had her privacy violated. Personal possessions totaling more than £2000 were improperly impounded by Avon and Somerset Constabulary. I was the victim first of a criminal vandal and then of police officers who were at best lax in their duty and possibly guilty of bigotry against me for serving my country in an unpopular war. Last, but by far from the least, I was subjected to a campaign of harassment by person or persons unknown from within the upper echelons of the police service.
It is obvious to me from the above chain of events that our political views (i.e. the RKBA as per the original English Bill of Rights 1688 and enshrined in the US Constitution) have upset person or persons very highly placed within the UK police and/or UK government. If my wife and I are forced to return to the UK I believe it will not be long before one or both of us are deprived of our liberty.
Stuart K Jarman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Aug 2004: further emails re the S.K. Jarman case.