A homeless man who was found sitting outside a bank with a bright orange toy gun has been convicted of having an "imitation weapon". Scott Park, 33, was handcuffed and led away by police after being found with the toy gun outside the Royal Bank of Scotland in Stirling in June last year.
Initially he was charged with a breach of the peace but prosecutors changed it to one of breaching the Firearms Act.
During the sheriff-only trial at Stirling Sheriff Court, CCTV footage was shown of Park huddled on the steps of the bank, which was closed at the time, as passers-by occasionally dropped coins in his plastic cup.
Police were alerted after a teenage girl saw the bright orange gun fall out of his pocket. She said she asked him what he was going to do with it and that he had replied he was going to use it if people refused to give him money. She said she was not sure if he was joking.
Depute fiscal Lindsey Brooks, prosecuting, argued a toy gun could fall foul of the Firearms Act if it "looked like a gun". Alistair Burleigh, defending, said the item his client had was "fluorescent bright orange, entirely constructed of plastic, and quite obviously simply a toy". A firearms expert told the court the gun was perfectly legal and it was bright orange because legislation says that non-imitation toy guns have to be a bright colour to distinguish them from real guns.
But Sheriff O'Carroll said it had the appearance of a firearm. He said children had "lawful excuse" for possessing such things - for playing cowboys and Indians. He said the case raised "a major public policy issue".
While there may have been other things going on that we are not aware of from this short report, on the face of it this looks ridiculous. It hardly bears comment, but I will make one or two points.
First, it appears that he was charged under the Firearms Act 1968 s.19, the text of which is as follows:
A person commits an offence if, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse (the proof whereof lies on him) he has with him in a public place
(a) a loaded shot gun,
(b) an air weapon (whether loaded or not),
(c) any other firearm (whether loaded or not) together with ammunition suitable for use in that firearm, or
(d) an imitation firearm