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Man prosecuted for posting a picture of his hobby on Facebook

Airsoft player cleared but case raises many questions

A man was prosecuted for posting a picture of himself on Facebook posing with airsoft equipment.

Christopher Turnbull, of Grangemouth, Scotland, was charged with a criminal offence for posting the picture, which was seen by a Stuart Brodie of Police Scotland.

The 45-year-old was eventually cleared at Falkirk Sheriff Court (magistrates' court) on August 31 – but his pleas for prosecutors and the legal system to see common sense before the trial went unheard.

Turnbull was charged with posting pictures and videos that were "grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing manner, in that they depicted [Turnbull] in possession of a cache of firearms and explosives".

The Register has not seen the images but understands that they featured the defendant wearing black combat gear and posing with his toy airsoft sniper rifle.

In a vain attempt to make procurator fiscal (Crown prosecutor) Jennifer Harrower do the right thing and drop the case, Turnbull's solicitor, William McIntyre, wrote: "My client's concern is that he wonders why he has been singled out for prosecution from the fifty thousand or so other members of the United Kingdom Airsoft Retailers Association who regularly post these types of images on social media. I am not sure if you are aware of the fact that Airsoft is an extremely popular leisure pursuit all over the world, as well as within Central Scotland where there are skirmish sites in both Grangemouth and Bonnybridge."

He added that around 300 pictures had been posted in July alone on the airsoft group where Police Scotland's Stuart Brodie had copied the pictures for the prosecution.

Airsoft is similar to paintball but places more emphasis on appearance. Participants use plastic BB guns to shoot each other and normally recreate military or armed police scenarios for fun. Players must be registered with the UK Airsoft Retailers' Association in order to buy their airsoft toys.

We understand a break in the chain of evidence rendered the prosecution's evidence legally worthless.

El Reg understands that the comments contained numerous unmistakable references to airsoft games.

Neither the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (Scotland's equivalent to the Crown Prosecution Service) nor the Scottish court system admitted anything to El Reg about the case other than the bare fact that Turnbull had been charged under the Communications Act 2003 and was cleared on August 31 this year. ®

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