A MAN charged with carrying a knife has been acquitted after magistrates decided he had the blade by mistake.

Dean Gardiner was arrested after he voluntarily handed the knife over to cops who were operating a checkpoint in a Redditch shopping centre.

The 42-year-old had been using the Stanley knife at work and forgotten to return it to his tool box, he only realised it was in his pocket as he approached an airport-style knife arch metal detector set up by cops in the Woodrow Centre.

Redditch magistrates were told he approached officers, told them he had the knife, handed it over and was arrested.

Mr Gardiner, of St Paul's Hostel, Tallow Hill, Worcester, was charged with carrying a blade in a public place.

He pleaded not guilty on the basis he had a legitimate reason to be in possession of the knife.

During his trial Mr Gardiner, who works for his father's company cleaning air conditioning units, gave evidence he was walking through the centre when he approached a queue of people waiting to go through the arch.

Mr Gardiner said: "I realised I had it in the queue, I told officers about it, I passed it to them, I was doing nothing wrong.

"It is a case of me forgetting it was there. I had no reason to have a knife on me."

The court heard Mr Gardiner used the knife at work to cut up hoses, chemical bags and small plastic containers.

He had been at work prior to visiting the shopping centre and was still wearing his work overalls.

Prosecutor John Dove told magistrates Mr Gardiner's apology to the officers was, in effect, an admission of guilt and the defence had to prove he had a lawful reason for being in possession of the knife.

Magistrates accepted Mr Gardiner, on balance of probability, did have a lawful reason to be in possession of the knife and accepted his explanation about why it was in his pocket.

Speaking after the trial Mr Gardiner said: "I'm glad they believed me, I told the truth. I'm grateful justice has been done.

"I realise what knives can do, now I want to get on and do my work."

West Mercia Police, who at the time of the incident tweeted that one more knife was off the streets and a man was heading for court, defended their decision to arrest Mr Gardiner.

Sergeant Mandy Partridge, of Redditch SNT, said: "We are committed to tackling knife crime and the devastating impact it has on communities. We take a proactive approach to identify people carrying knives and have a duty to investigate whenever we catch someone with a blade.

"Once someone is charged, the decision rests with the court to determine whether or not a defendant has reasonable cause to be carrying a knife."

The Crown Prosecution Service is yet to respond to requests for a comment about the decision to prosecute Mr Gardiner.