‘For Your Protection’ – the myth of CCTV

September 3, 2010

The following is taken from a report by The Daily Record

AN innocent man was thrown in jail for three months – because he was carrying a rose.

Cops viewing CCTV thought the single rose Stephen McAleer had in his hand as he walked home was a knife.

He was arrested and sent to Barlinnie Jail on remand. And 28-year-old Stephen’s prison ordeal only ended when he was cleared at a two-day trial this week.

A CCTV expert enhanced the images and testified that the item he was carrying was a rose in a plastic sleeve, which tapers to a knife-like point at the end of the stem.

Stephen admits he has served a jail sentence for a previous knife offence but says he has been trying to “move on” since his release in December 2008.

He said yesterday: “Jail was torture – although the other prisoners who heard what I was in for were laughing at me.

“I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. The police were saying I had a knife and they had pictures to prove it.”

Stephen, from Newmilns, Ayrshire, was quizzed over the “blade” after he went to speak to police about traffic offences.

He said: “All of a sudden the police started asking me about a knife, saying they had CCTV pictures of me with one.

“It was from a few weeks previously, when I was walking home with my fianc›e from her mum’s house.

“I was trying to rack my brain to think what it could have been I was carrying. It eventually dawned on me that it had been the rose in its plastic wrapper. But I was still kept in prison until my case came to court.”

Stephen added: “You couldn’t make it up. I am sure no one else has ever spent three months in prison for having a rose.

“When I was being taken from jail to court for the start of my trial one of the other prisoners actually said to me, ‘Don’t worry, Stephen, you’ll come up smelling of roses.

“It would have been funny if it hadn’t been for the fact that I was facing being sent to jail for even longer.”

Stephen, who admits he has convictions for drugs and assault, insisted: “I am ashamed about my past and would never get involved with knives again.

“I am not sure what the answer to the problem of knife crime is. But it certainly isn’t locking up someone for carrying a rose. for their girlfriend just because they have offended before.

“I lost three months of my life.”

Stephen was cleared of carrying a knife by a jury at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court.

The court heard he and fianc›e Rochel le had been celebrating her birthday with her mum Joanne Ewing, who bought the rose for her because it was her favourite purple.

As they walked home, he was carrying it for her.

Joanne said yesterday: “I saw the rose and bought it because it it was purple, which is Rochelle’s favourite colour.

“Who would have thought it would have led to what has happened. I think what Stephen has been put through is totally ridiculous.”

Stephen said: “I am utterly relieved at the jury’s verdict and very thankful that my lawyer got the CCTV pictures enhanced. The question is why didn’t the police or the fiscal do that?”

Well we all know why, don’t we? Because the police are incompetent.

Once again we are reminded of Franklin’s famous observation:

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

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