Chef jailed after being caught with large knife in streets of Harrogate

Gary Johnson has been jailed after he was caught with a large kitchen knife and a sharp-pointed half golf club in the streets of Harrogate.
Gary Johnson has been jailed after he was caught with a large kitchen knife and a sharp-pointed half golf club in the streets of Harrogate.

A trained chef has been jailed after he was caught with a large kitchen knife and a sharp-pointed half golf club in the streets of Harrogate.

Gary Johnson, 42, claimed he was carrying the weapons for his own protection because he had received threats from a man living outside the area, York Crown Court heard.

The former chef - now unemployed after battling years of drug abuse - was stopped by police after skulking off down an alleyway near Mayfield Grove.

Officers found a “large, black-handled kitchen knife” and a snapped-off half golf golf club with a “sharp end”, said prosecutor Ian Cook.

Johnson was arrested and charged with possessing a bladed article and an offensive weapon. He admitted the charges and was due to be sentenced last Thursday, April 4, but did not turn up in court. He was given three days’ prison for failing to surrender on Tuesday and appeared for sentence on the weapons charges on Wednesday.

Barrister Mr Cook said two patrol officers saw Johnson, who was with two females, acting suspiciously and “looking over his shoulder” before disappearing down a back alley at about 7.30pm on February 18.

An officer approached the group and asked Johnson if he was carrying any other weapons. Johnson told the officer: “I’ve got a knife.”

He pulled the blade out of his waistband and handed it over as officers handcuffed and searched him.

Mr Cook said police found other “items” on Johnson, but these were not subject to any criminal charges.

Johnson, of Hyde Park Road, Harrogate, told officers he had been carrying the weapons for his own and his pregnant girlfriend’s protection, adding: “I just wanted to stand a fighting chance.”

He denied he would have used the broken golf club as a “stabbing weapon or a form of club”, added Mr Cook.

He said Johnson had a vast criminal record including 34 previous convictions for 91 offences. His rap sheet, dating back nearly 30 years, included convictions for theft, serious violence, wounding, possessing an illegal firearm, robbery, fraud and drug offences.

Defence barrister Jessica Randell said Johnson was on his way to the shops when he was found with the weapons and never intended to harm anyone.

She said Johnson had been working as a chef for 20 years but then got hooked on heroin and became unemployed and homeless due to mental-health problems. He was now trying to kick his 15-year habit and find new work.

She urged judge Paul Worsley QC to suspend the inevitable prison sentence so that Johnson - who is due to become a father in a few months’ time - could get “the help he so desperately needs”.

But Mr Worsley rejected the plea because of Johnson’s “appalling” criminal record, adding: “He’s got 91 previous (offences); he’s been inside for robbery; he’s possessed a firearm in the past.”

He described Johnson’s weaponry as a “pretty formidable arsenal of tools”.

Jailing him for 12 months, the judge told him: “I am told that you are a trained chef. It’s a pity that you have not used your skills towards that end.”

Mr Worsley reminded Johnson and the court of the perils of knife crime at a time when the country was in the grip of an epidemic.

“Knife crime is on the rise in this country,” he added. “The word has to go out that people who go out at night armed with knives go to prison.”