TEIGNBRIDGE'S senior police officer yesterday explained why a disabled Newton Abbot man was taken to court for possessing a knife he claimed he used for cutting up fruit.
Superintendent Jim Meakin spoke publicly for the first time on why 61-year-old Rodney Knowles was charged with possessing the weapon — described in court as a Swiss Army-style knife.
Knowles, an enthusiastic caravanner, was arrested when the knife was found in his car's glove compartment soon after he left a Newton Abbot pub.
In the subsequent court case Knowles admitted the charge and was given a conditional discharge.
The court was told at the time that the knife was used for cutting up fruit on picnics with his wife, for whom he is the full-time carer.
The case made national headlines and Supt Meakin has since received up to 17 letters from concerned residents and would-be visitors about the case.
He issued his statement to clarify the law and explain why police took the action that they did. He said: "We stopped a very serious incident happening."
Knowles, 61, of Buckland, appeared before magistrates last month after he admitted possessing a knife.
The case related to the night of February 23 when Knowles was stopped by police after leaving the Highweek Inn pub. He was arrested for suspected drink-driving but a breath test showed he was under the legal limit. Police searched his car and found the knife.
Because he pleaded guilty some background details to the case were not given in open court, the Crown Prosecution Service says.
Supt Meakin said in his statement: "At 11.45pm on February 23, police received a report that while Mr Knowles was in the Highweek Inn he had made an alleged threat that he was going to use a knife to harm someone.
"The police were advised that Mr Knowles had left the address in a vehicle.
"The vehicle was stopped a short while later by my police officers, where Mr Knowles was arrested for supplying a positive breath test. A further test at the police station proved he was under the legal drink drive limit."
"The vehicle was searched for a weapon and a Buck Whittaker lock knife was found. The knife is illegal and has a serrated edge."
Supt Meakin maintained it was not a Swiss Army-style knife, as stated in Knowles's court case by prosecutor Philip Sewell.
Supt Meakin said: "Mr Knowles was interviewed the following morning about the alleged threats and the Crown Prosecution Service made a decision, based on all the circumstances, to charge Mr Knowles with the knife offence.
"I was really pleased that the police responded immediately to concerns raised by members of the public and local business community. The intervention stopped what could have been a very serious incident.
"I have personally spoken to and responded to various members of the community, members of the public who visit or wish to visit our district.
"Some of these letters were written by fishing clubs, camping and caravan associations and holidaymakers who had concerns regarding the reported article.
"I can assure you that people who possess a Swiss Army knife for a bona fide reason will not be prosecuted.
"I must point out that the law is clear: it is an offence for any person, without lawful authority or good reason, to have with him in a public place, any article which has a blade or is sharply pointed, except for a folding pocket knife which has a cutting edge to its blade not exceeding three inches."
A Crown Prosecution Service spokesman said: "Mr Knowles pleaded guilty so there wasn't a full trial and therefore all the facts did not come out in court. We are grateful to the police for their prompt action and stand 100 per cent behind our decision to prosecute Mr Knowles."
Mr Knowles's solicitor Jolyon Tuck said: "I can say quite safely Mr Knowles has no comment to make."