Man caught with flick knife walks free from court - despite twice being jailed for stabbing people (From The Northern Echo)
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Darlington man caught with flick knife walks free from court - despite twice being jailed for stabbing people
A MAN caught with a flick-knife hidden in his back-pack has been given a chance by a judge - even though he has twice been jailed for stabbing people.
John Raper turned up at court with a huge portable music system and other belongings expecting a prison sentence for possessing an offensive weapon.
But the troubled 44-year-old was given a suspended jail term after a judge at Teesside Crown Court heard he was doing well under Probation Service supervision .
Raper was released in October 2012 from his latest spell behind bars for knifing someone and, after a spell in a Middlesbrough hostel, has returned to Darlington.
The court heard that he is now in a stable relationship, his partner was pregnant and - other than the knife offence in April - has stayed out of trouble.
Prosecutor Rachel Masters said police saw Raper "acting suspiciously" in Northgate, Darlington, and when they searched his bags, found the flick-knife.
He gave a number of confusing accounts about why he carried the weapon, but told police he had had it since he was ten and it had belonged to his murdered dad.
Judge Howard Crowson said yesterday that he had planned to jail Raper because of his violent past, until he heard from defence barrister Peter Makepeace.
Mr Makepeace told the court the knife was in a spectacles case along with a pair of glasses and a camera, which was in a zipped compartment in the holdall.
He said Raper had an "utterly disorganised lifestyle" and added: "He had it for no specific intention. There is no evidence to suggest anything other than that.
"This was about 5pm in the centre of Darlington. It wasn't late at night and he was not under the influence of drink or under the influence of any illegal substances.
"He wasn't in the sort of location that would cause concern, such as a nightclub, or school premises or hospital premises, and the knife wasn't at hand."
Raper, of High Northgate, Darlington, admitted possessing an offensive weapon, and was given a six-month sentence, which was suspended for two years.
Outside of court, he said he had taken his treasured belongings with him because he expected to be sent "on a holiday" but felt lucky to be spared prison.
Mr Makepeace had earlier said: "It is impossible for Mr Raper not to act suspiciously. He is hyperactive, speaks at the speed of a machine gun and fires off declarations left, right and centre."
Judge Crowson told him: "You have put yourself at real risk of prison by what you have done . . . I was going to lock you up when I looked at your past.
"But I have now heard everything that has been said about it and what's clear is that although these things are dangerous, you had this thing pretty well secured.
"I can't form the impression you were going to use it to harm somebody. It is the sort of knife that can cause a good deal of harm and with your background it is something I could have locked you up for."
In 2006, Raper was jailed for six years for stabbing in the neck a love rival, whose life was saved by a passing off-duty police officer in Newton Aycliffe.
For an offence of wounding in 2009, he was locked up for five years at Teesside Crown Court in 2010 after stabbing a man twice in the head and once in the chest.