Published: 17:48, 01 November 2019
| Updated: 18:56, 01 November 2019
A Bulgarian mother has feared for her ability to remain in the UK post-Brexit after being found with a plastic-covered knife at a shopping centre, a court has heard.
Silviya Pavlova had been arrested for an unrelated matter at TJ Hughes in The Mall, Maidstone, on December 18 when the small purple kitchen knife, with a 3.35in blade, was found inside her handbag.
The 53-year-old told officers she wasn't from England and wasn't aware that carrying such an item was illegal, claiming it was "only a thin, small knife, not a butcher's knife".
Geoff Playford, defending, told the court the blade had been bought a week or two before the offence for kitchen use, but Pavolva then forgot it was in her bag when she grabbed it to go shopping on December 18.
"There’s no suggestion she got the knife out or did anything with it," he said.
"This appears to be an unfortunate situation, where she didn’t realise she was committing an offence and she is worried this will appear as a conviction.
"She came in 2017 to join her husband and son who were already here.
"Nobody is suggesting you have done anything other than cut vegetables with this knife" - judge Paul Goldspring
"As a result of the shenanigans of Brexit, she's got to apply for residence status to remain, and her case can’t be dealt with until this matter is resolved."
Pavlova, of Melford Avenue, Barking, Essex, pleaded guilty through a translator, to possessing a blade in a public place.
She was then given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay costs of £105.
District judge Paul Goldspring told her: "It’s always unfortunate when there’s a difference between what you are used to in Bulgaria, and here, in terms of the law.
"But being ignorant is no defence, it’s right to say even mere possession is a criminal offence.
"I accept it is probably not an offence in these circumstances in Bulgaria and nobody is suggesting you have done anything other than cut vegetables with this knife.
"The risk to the public is practically zero because it had a plastic cover on it - people who use knives for nefarious purposes don’t do that.
"I’m not making any comment about the effect of Brexit, but I recognise that’s a worry for you."
A memorandum of conviction will be sent to the Home Office clarifying the case's outcome, the court was told.
More by this authorTom Pyman