A BUSINESSMAN who sells police memorabilia to fund his retirement will appeal his conviction and sentence after a landmark trial at Bournemouth Magistrates’ Court.
On Thursday, magistrates ruled 67-year-old Ronald Cooke, of Liphook Road, Bordon, Hampshire, had broken the law for possessing hundreds of items of police uniform and equipment he intended to sell.
The case, believed to be the first of its kind in the UK, could “open the floodgates” for future prosecutions against sellers and collectors of police memorabilia, the court was told.
Alison Saunders, prosecuting, said Cooke sold the items online and from his shop Dorset Militaria in Penn Court, West Moors, which has recently closed down. She said Cooke was first arrested on suspicion of handling stolen goods after a warrant was executed at the shop and his home in September last year.
Police found a haul of items including 236 police helmets, 56 police baseball caps and 92 helmet badges. Officers also seized 40 envelopes containing a “large quantity” of police badges which Cooke used to make the replica items, the magistrates were told.
Ms Saunders said when interviewed by police, Cooke was asked whether he vetted the people he sold the items to and if he had considered whether they could be used by terrorists or someone attempting to impersonate a police officer.
Cooke told officers it had “crossed his mind but people get tied up with terrorism” and only “decent people” buy from him, the magistrates heard. Harvey Withecombe, defending, said Cooke, who also sold the items on the websites dorsetmilitaria.com and britishbobby.com, had been financially “crippled” by the case.
Cooke, who opted not to give evidence, lost £800 a week in income since police seized his stock last year, the court was told.
Mr Withecombe said: “There is no evidence he has sold any of these items to a person who used them for an unlawful purpose.”
Mr Withecombe accused the Crown Prosecution Service of “making up the law” and claimed if Cooke was found guilty, anyone who collects, sells or handles police equipment could face prosecution.
Cooke was found guilty of eight counts of possessing police uniform on Thursday, August 21. He was fined £250, ordered to pay costs of £300 and a £25 victim surcharge.
Speaking after the trial, he said: “There’s a huge market for this kind of memorabilia, and I can’t understand it. I will be appealing the decision.”