Grayling’s proposals = lynch law
Whatever happened to the concept that an Englishman’s Home is his Castle?
This comment appeared on an article entitled ‘Sufficient v Excessive force’ on Conservative Home. You have to wonder at the mentality which views a home from the same perspective of a medieval baron, indeed this is what gives us our clue to what has happened to this concept. Simply, our notion of what justice is has evolved and this is a good thing.
However, you would be hard-pressed to see this from reading the article. It cites the case of Munir Hussain, a businessman from High Wycombe, who chased three burglars who had threatened his family down a street and beat one of them to the point of brain damage. The instinct to cheer this kind of behaviour has to be suppressed for justice to function (because justice encompasses restoration and punishment) however, in trying to justify it the author gets into so many logical tangles.
Apparently self-defence now encompasses the notion of being allowed to ‘defeat your opponent utterly’. Anybody with a clear understanding of language can see what we have shifted from a defensive to an aggressive concept of ‘total war’ being justified. The reason for this are given as follows;
Otherwise the lives of his family were at serious risk. They would be at immediate risk if the burglars were not driven out – there must have been a good chance they would all die, so as to leave no witnesses, if Mr Hussein and his brother had been defeated in combat with the burglars. And if they escaped and were not immediately arrested by the police, one could anticipate them returning to murder Mr Hussein’s family at a later date.
Not only are we into the realm of ‘pre-crime’ here (with all the attendant problems that has for justice as a concept) but we enter the realm of surreal reasoning. What is not explained is why three offenders who were fleeing would return to the scene of a crime to commit an even greater crime. One thing you notice about the reporting of this case as it is reproduced in the article is that the fact that the robbers were fleeing is downplayed and the reason why is never actually explained.
What is most likely that having faced resistance the criminals thought better of what they were doing and were running through fear; so, the likelihood of them returning to commit murder becomes virtually non-existent. Even though that chance existed justice rightly does not allow for action to be taken on the ‘off-chance’ something will happen and rightly so, however, surely it would have been right for Mr Hussein to apprehend the robber. It would but even that would not have been good enough because;
For conviction rates for burglary are poor. The chances that the burglar would remain at liberty to terrorise Mr Hussein and his family in revenge for his fight-back must have been high.
I am no legal expert but I would have thought the chances of a successful conviction where the felon was caught red-handed would be pretty high. Once again the author’s argument is an inversion of all logical sense. Mr Hussein can be forgiven for not functioning logically at the time and indeed has diminished responsibility for his actions but nonetheless in beating somebody to this point he committed a crime and his conviction is a just one.
Even the author is forced to concede this possibility;
If, for example, they struck him sufficiently many times after he was already unconscious, or if they struck him repeatedly after he had already cast down his knife and held up his hands in surrender, then we might regard their violence against him as vengeful rather than defensive. And vengeance is for vigilantes, not self-defenders.
So perhaps Mr Hussein should have been convicted – I don’t pretend to know.
I think it’s a pretty clear medical given that beating somebody to the point of brain damage would mean that some stage they would be unconscious and therefore no more capable of wielding a knife than doing anything else. So, even on the poor narration given by the author we are on safe territory to assume that Mr Hussein was vengeful in what he did and axiomatically even by the authors standards he should have been convicted.
It is in the context of the above that the proposals of Chris Grayling to strengthen the legal rights of householders should be looked at; Grayling promises to look at the law allowing ‘reasonable force’ again because;
Conservatives argue that the defence that the law offers a householder should be much clearer, and that prosecutions and convictions should only happen in cases where courts judge the actions involved to be “grossly disproportionate”.
We have already seen how unclear the opposition to ‘reasonable force’ can be; any law in this area will always include a degree of subjective criterion because of the very nature of the beast. The author of an article that initially sets out to defend somebody like Mr Hussein ends up being ‘not sure’ whether he should have been convicted which is not surprising given the logical contortions involved in defending him.
How then can reasonable force be any cleared? The answer, of course, is that it cannot without recourse to legitimising vigilantism. Subjective criteria are there to be impartially judged and thats precisely what a jury and judge do. ‘Reasonable force’ is the correct formula as it stands and should be defended against Conservative notions of justice which are hugely unjust. I wonder where all those people who view the Conservative Party as somehow ‘liberal’ are now…..?