Monday, January 25, 2010

Self-Defence and the Law

In the Times, and doubtless other places, there is much talk about how the Conservatives are planning to allow people more freedom to defend themselves, their familes and their property from intruders. It seems to reflect an appeal to populism in the light of some recent cases, and other not so recent ones which have excercised editorial writers for years. The comments are fascinating, as they reveal that people approach this from several completely different directions, and are incapable of understanding another point of view. Nothing new there, but it is surprising that some people don't seem able to imagine themselves as a householder faced with an intruder of unknown intention.

Anyone entering your house without permission is and will be perceived as a threat. It's the way we are. Any overtly threatening behaviour including the carrying of weapons will produce an overwhelming urge to react. If the owner and his family are at any time subject to the will of the intruder they will experience great fear and impotence. If one of them manages to gain control of the situation for a moment they will not calmly carry out a risk assessment, weighing this against that, running the letter of the law over in their minds and reevaluating it after each blow they land and each action they take. They will not do this because they are human, they are in a situation for which nothing has prepared them, their heartrate is over 200 and their body is awash with adrenalin. What they will do is beat the living s*** out of the intruder until they are absolutely certain, beyond any doubt, that he has ceased to be a threat.

That's what people do, and the law must adapt to human nature. None of this has to do with vigilantism or revenge attacks, but with defence against a present threat. If the law expects people to conform to it in these situations, rather than the other way around, then it will be seen to be an ass and will achieve nothing but to send people to jail who do not deserve to be there.

And if the local low-life have a more difficult and dangerous time making ends meet because of it, so much the better.

One of the cases mentioned recently was that of Myleene Klaas, who I had never heard of but apparently she appears on TV, who was cautioned by police after waving a knife at a gang who tried to enter her house. I don't know if anyone else has mentioned this, but I wonder how the police even knew what she had done. Did the thugs have the cheek to report it themselves? How did that conversation go?

"There we was, officer, me and the mates, going about our business, trying to break into this house where there's this woman alone with her baby, in accordance with our basic human right to live by nicking other people's stuff 'cos we can, and she waves a knife at us. I mean it's not on, is it, someone could've got hurt. Bloody scandalous it is, officer, didn't ought to be allowed. I mean start letting law-abiding people slice cubumber in their own kitchens and where'll you be? I mean that knife was bigger than all but three of the ones I had in my pocket. Bloody disgrace. You'll be talking to her? Thanks for your time, officer, glad we speak the same language."

Just a thought. It struck me as odd.

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