December 27th, 2009

An Englishman’s Home

Posted in The Job - General by 200

So the Munir Hussain case has heightened calls for changes in the law for people to defend themselves, particularly by Chris Grayling, the shadow Home Secretary & the Daily Telegraph which has published several articles in the last week.

Currently the law allows an individual to use such reasonable force as is necessary to protect themselves, their family or their property.

The key factor being ‘reasonable‘ force. In the Hussain’s case the court clearly thought the force used was far above reasonable, & they were probably right no matter how distasteful the chap on the Clapham omnibus might find the conviction of a burglary victim.

So what is reasonable? This is not really very clearly defined & ranges from putting your hand on a criminal’s shoulder & saying “you’re staying right there until police arrive”, to shooting someone dead.

The Conservative party want to raise the level of defence a victim defending themselves would have, suggesting that no convictions should be brought unless the level of violence used against an offender was “grossly disproportionate”. They further say that when they come to power they will change the rules which currently see police investigating trivial or malicious complaints so that police would not arrest someone acting in good faith to prevent a crime or apprehend a suspect.

Under their proposals we would also have the freedom to apply common sense when faced with absurd allegations.

If any of this goes through it will see a major change in the way police record & investigate ‘crimes’. National Recording Standards require police to record an offence on the grounds that the ‘victim’ thinks it is a crime rather than  there being evidence that a crime existed.

The offence of common assault is a prime example. We currently record, & investigate, thousands of assaults which amount to no more than pushing & shoving. Previously we would have said there was no injury, if you’re that concerned take them to civil court. We record threatening & antisocial behaviour for incidents which amount to not much more than bad manners.

But I digress. Back to reasonable force.

There are thoughts that much crime is so prevalent because the offender knows he has just as much protection – some would say more judging by many cases – as the victim. We have the ridiculous situation where some ill-mannered & badly behaved chav can ruin a pensioner’s private peace but when the pensioner remonstrates with the youth & pokes him in the chest, she gets nicked & prosecuted.

How many times do we hear from gutless little teenage scumbags “you can’t do nuffin’”.

What would burglars’ attitudes be if they knew the law would protect the householder who gave them a good kicking or even shot them?

Brendan Fearon, one of the burglars shot by Tony Martin when they broke into his Norfolk farmhouse in 1999 is quoted as having said a bill to protect homeowners from prosecution would have deterred him from breaking in.

It would be interesting to see the burglary stats in countries which permit firearm ownership to see if the thought of being met by an angry victim with a shotgun would deter a would-be burglar.

Switzerland has amongst the highest level of gun ownership in the world; they still have national service & an army based on a militia. All personnel are required to keep their assault rifle or pistol at their homes. Estimates suggest there are 420,000 military assault rifles stored in private homes together with another 320,000 similar weapons & pistols exempted from military service. The total amount of firearms is believed to be up to 3 million in a population of just over 7 million.

I’ve not had the opportunity to investigate Switzerland’s burglary stats, they might make interesting reading.

I’m not convinced that the banning of handguns in the UK has done much more than rob thousands of responsible gun owners of a hobby; as it appears any TV documentary maker is able to get one within about 30 minutes, if their programmes are to be believed. But maybe that’s a debate for another day.

With an election looming & a high probability of a new government, it will be interesting to see how, or even if, this one pans out.

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10 comments

  1. Anon says:

    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_bur_percap-crime-burglaries-per-capita

    Pretty middle of the road crime wise. Less than the UK but more than the US and way more than Saudi Arabia where breaking into houses with two stumps is damn near impossible.

    December 28th, 2009 at 09:43

  2. anon says:

    A thoughtful post, 200 but any conclusions drawn from the Swiss statistics could not be applied here, where military discipline is present in few homes rather than every home.

    Only lawyers and vengeful citizens will welcome the Tory idea of “grossly disproportionate”. I point to three decades of testing the meaning of “reasonable” in the High Court, which resulted in nothing definitive with the exception of an open chequebook for specialist lawyers. Interestingly, you allude to the Tory idea raising the question of legally held firearms in the home. I agree on the basis that “grossly disproportionate” has to be a quantum leap from “reasonable”.

    I abhor guns, never accepting that whilst in amateur hands, they constitute any deterrent to crime or a successful means of confronting criminals. Even if half the electorate were considered responsible enough to keep a loaded handgun in the home, would it be democratic to deny the potentially dangerous remainder that same option?

    December 28th, 2009 at 10:06

  3. Fee says:

    A colleague of mine lamped a guy attempting to break into her house. She had a small shovel beside the door (for snow clearing purposes, M’Lud) and said it made a very satisfying clang when it connected with the back of his head. The attending police officers immediately declared her actions “reasonable” on the grounds that (a) she’s less than five feet tall (b) she was in the house with her children, but without her spouse and (c) she hadn’t actually used a weapon, just something she could justify keeping beside her door.

    She does admit, however, that if she’d had access to a firearm, she’d have shot the bugger. On balance, I’d rather not have half the population keeping guns at home. I’ve never even seen one in real life, and that’s the way I like it.

    December 28th, 2009 at 12:33

  4. Gutsy Kid says:

    I don’t really agree with gun ownership. Like has already been said, there are more problems arising from the general populace being armed than solutions.

    You also have to remember that by introducing more guns to Britain by consequence more criminals are going to be armed. If the burglars in Hussain’s case thought he might own a gun, do you think they’d have only gone into the property with knives? You then have factor in accidental shootings, and the possibility of the terrible “shoot first” laws being enacted here that are present in some states in America.

    December 28th, 2009 at 13:41

  5. Annette says:

    We, the public, always claim self defence but the courts rip you to pieces about your action.
    There does not seem to be any law for us.
    However, in this case with the break-ins with the asian family I feel it was self defence because although they had left the house,your mind would be alive with anger, and fear.
    As I understand it, the men threatened his wife and tied them up.
    For goodness sake, you would feel fear and anger, but you cannot, in the heat of the moment think to yourself that you must calm down and think about what your doing.
    It doesn’t work like that!!!
    Your mind would be in a whirl, you would not be thinking straight at all.
    As i said,Fear, anger, everything would be whirling around and you would be thinking about defending your family and yourselves.
    Only when all have calmed down would you be able to think about what you have done.
    In that situation, what can you do?

    December 28th, 2009 at 14:24

  6. Gutsy Kid says:

    Annette, it is up to the jury to decide whether your mindset affected your actions or not. A sleep-walking man get off murder charges with diminished responsibility, after all.

    December 28th, 2009 at 15:54

  7. Tony F says:

    Ah but a sleep waking man would not have a string of offences.

    My personal belief is; if someone enters your property with intent to take your legally held possessions, they forfeit any rights that they may think they have. I would never enter someone else’s property without asking permission.I would expect the same of everyone else.

    December 28th, 2009 at 16:39

  8. Oi says:

    My personal belief is; if someone enters your property with intent to take your legally held possessions, they forfeit any rights that they may think they have. I would never enter someone else’s property without asking permission.I would expect the same of everyone else.

    My feelings exactly. The only problem I have with any subsequent brain-damage to Billy Burglar, is that he then becomes a bigger burden on the state than he is now. To me, those such as the one dealt to by the asian family, engineer their own misfortune

    December 28th, 2009 at 20:19

  9. Legal Eagle says:

    If someone is in your property then fine… but Munir had left the property and was running away.

    Can anyone in their right mindd say that it was somehow just and lawful to beat the man repeatedly to the extent he suffered brain damage?

    Come on!

    December 29th, 2009 at 09:54

  10. copper bottom says:

    i think people forget that law applies to them- as well as the criminals..

    December 30th, 2009 at 16:10

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