‘Church gardening’ excuse for carrying an axe around Southsea rejected by jury

March 21, 2024
Matthew Parris

Matthew Parris has secured a conviction in a bladed article trial where the defendant argued he had a reasonable excuse for carrying an axe in public.

An agitated and aggressive man was spotted by police carrying an axe on the streets of Southsea on a Sunday morning. After banging on the bonnet of a police car he was arrested but gave no explanation for the axe and why he had dropped it in the garden of a nearby property.

At trial he advanced a reason for carrying the axe: he was on his way to do some gardening at his church. In particular, he was going to help with the removal of some shrubs.

In his defence, his church priest was called to give evidence. The priest explained that the defendant was a regular church attendee who helped with the church’s homelessness programmes. He would often – weekly – assist with gardening tasks. Sometimes on an ad-hoc and unannounced basis.

When cross-examined, the priest revealed that the defendant had not attended church for a few weeks prior to being found with the axe. Nor had he done any gardening in that time. More pertinently, the church had been assisted that winter by a team of people who completed all winter gardening activities. That work was concluded two months before the defendant was found with the axe – that work included the removal of all shrubbery.

The defendant was convicted. The jury rejected the proposition that it was more likely than not he had the axe for gardening in the church garden.