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Friday, November 21, 2008

David Messam (former) employee on knife selling, knife crime and the death of Jackie Marshall

I have been contacted by blogger St. Anley in connection with the killing of Jackie Marshall. It was written about my previous post Knife weapons removed from shop window. I publish his post here in full:

This comment is NOT for publication outside the scope of this BLOG.

At the time of the tragic murder of Jackie Marshall I was an employee of David Messam. Being of mature years, our clients often approached me in the misguided belief that I had some managerial position and complained about some of the merchandise displayed in the shop window. I had no executive authority but some sympathy with these observations which I regularly passed on to management.

Following the crime (and it is common knowledge that Shane Freer purchased the weapon at David Messam’s shop) we ceased selling what might be described as ‘hunting knives’ and the window display was reduced considerably. My colleague who undertook the sale of something which came to be used as a weapon was extremely distressed.

There is, however, some misinformation going on. Firstly, the sale of flick-knives is illegal and these were never part of the merchandise. Otherwise, with the exception of an age restriction, the sale of knives is fairly unrestricted. It is not the sale that is illegal, it is the carrying about one’s person in a public place, without good reason…that is. Now, ‘good reason’ is a fairly debatable point.

Then there is the issue of a ‘locking’ blade. Locking blades are considered to be safer for the user than the more usual folding blade of a pen knife. But, being locking, they are considered in law to be a ‘fixed’ blade and, thereby, illegal to carry in a public place…

A disturbing exchange occurred soon after the crime. A smart gentleman entered the shop and identified a knife in the cabinet that he wished to purchase. I demonstrated the knife, which had a locking blade. I advised him of the legalities and, because his physical appearance and demeanour were clearly that of someone over 21, I did not ask for any ID. It was my usual practice to place such items back in the original packaging and supply a sellotaped bag. Having done so, I would advise the customer that, if challenged, the only good reason for carrying it is: “I’m taking it home, Officer.”

Within minutes of this transaction, the customer returned to the shop, knife with open blade in hand, saying, “How do you close it?” I demonstrated once more and repeated my advice.

Within 48 hours a photograph appeared in Portsmouth News of this ‘customer’ standing outside David Messam’s holding the same knife with the locked blade exposed. This was accompanied by a report indicting my employer for selling such merchandise. My response is that the sale was entirely legitimate, but brandishing the knife in East Street for the benefit of a photographer could have resulted in this person’s arrest. He had totally ignored my advice for a cheap piece of publicity that was utterly irrelevant to the genuine outrage at Mrs. Marshall’s untimely death.

Furthermore, one has to consider that shops of this nature also sell such things as cooking knives with fixed blades over 3” long, woodworking tools like chisels, scissors and gardening tools. Even the humble screwdriver could inflict significant damage. Notwithstanding their legitimate usefulness, all of these can be construed to be sharp objects capable of be used as a weapon. Sale, to anyone over the age of 16, of these is within the law. Carrying of same in a public place without good reason may be illegal.

Please understand that I share the widespread concern about violent crime in general, and knife-crime in particular. What I experienced, as a responsible representative of a respectable retail establishment, was misdirected criticism. Don’t blame the vendor; prosecute the user!

Or, alternatively, change the law!

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