Woman jailed for taking knife into Scarborough shopping centre

Megan Welsh was sentenced at York Crown Court.
Megan Welsh was sentenced at York Crown Court.

A council housing officer who was caught with a flick knife in a Scarborough department store has been jailed for six months.

Megan Welsh, 22, pulled the knife out of her pocket and then held it out “at a right angle” as she was approached by a police officer in Debenhams, which was packed with shoppers, York Crown Court heard.

Ian Cook, prosecuting, said it appeared that Welsh was about to throw or discard the knife, but the officer seized it from her before she could do so.

Welsh, who was living in Scarborough at the time, was placed under arrest and told the officer that she normally kept the blade in her bra, added Mr Cook.

She was charged with possessing a knife in a public place and admitted the offence. She appeared for sentence on Thursday, when the court heard that Welsh and an unnamed male came to the attention of Debenhams security staff who suspected they were shoplifting and called the police.

Welsh, who worked as a housing officer for a separate local authority but now faces losing her job, was initially also charged with shoplifting, but this allegation was ultimately dropped after it was revealed that the “suspicious” items were in fact hers.

Welsh’s solicitor advocate James McGowan said his client, who had since left Scarborough, was “walking around almost in a panic” before police searched her.

“She says she produced (the) knife to throw it… and it’s grabbed (by the police officer) before she can throw it,” added Mr McGowan, who vehemently denied the police contention that the weapon had been “brandished”.

He said Welsh did not intend to harm or threaten anyone with the blade – an assertion accepted by the Crown.

Mr McGowan said there was a “background” to the matter in that Welsh, who had no previous convictions, had been previously threatened with a knife and carried a blade for her own protection and to “make her feel more secure”.

He said that Welsh had mental-health problems and was not taking her medication at the time of the incident.

A probation officer said Welsh had taken to carrying a knife around because she had been attacked and received threats of violence from unnamed individuals.

Welsh had been prescribed medication for depression and anxiety due to “distressing incidents in her past” and had received counselling.

Recorder Bryan Cox QC told Welsh: “This (flick knife) was a very dangerous item. The blade was open. It was an obviously potentially-lethal weapon (and) you had the knife with you in a busy public place.

“It must have been frightening for the police officer concerned and she very quickly grabbed your wrist and seized the item from you.”

Mr Cox said that despite glowing character references which attested to Welsh’s “caring” nature and her lack of previous convictions, “it seems to me that, notwithstanding the mitigation, it must be an immediate prison sentence to (reflect the seriousness of the offence) and to discourage you and others from carrying dangerous weapons in public”.