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David Thompson
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July 21, 2008

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Ed

Whatever the law, anyone forcing there way into my home is getting hit with the heaviest, or stuck with the pointiest, thing i can find.

John D

"Nor would the new law help anyone who, warned of a possible break-in, lies in wait and takes forceful action against the burglar. Such conduct has been premeditated. To avoid being prosecuted, it would have to be an instinctive reaction."

What if I've got a baseball bat under the bed? Does that count as 'premeditated'? What's wrong with premeditated self-defense?

JuliaM

"Don’t we want a world in which it’s the bad guys that are scared, and scared for very good reasons?"

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1036728/Photographing-thugs-assault-police-tell-householder-snapping-proof-anti-social-behaviour.html

It appears that we don't. Even in the smallest of issues, nver mind the fairly straightforward one (you'd think...) of home invasion.

Although I can't remember ever being asked if that's the route I wanted the upholders of law and order to go down...

David

Julia,

At first I assumed it was simply a matter of how the law is *perceived* rather than how it actually stands and what one’s rights actually are. But even if so, the perception is still important and the innocent should *feel* empowered, legally, to defend themselves and their families in a realistic way. I’m not sure that’s currently the case. The perception of the law seems ambivalent and somewhat demoralising. In the scenario I outlined above, which is hardly unthinkable, one shouldn’t feel obliged to fret about the intruder’s wellbeing, or possible legal action on his behalf. And there are plenty of news stories that, if taken at face value, suggest far too much legal concern for people whose choices and actions put them way beyond sympathy.

Horace Dunn

“Many people hoping for an unrestricted green light to beat up or shoot their burglars or robbers, even unto death, will be disappointed.”

Berlins, in his article, as exemplified by the sentence above, shows the complete lack of understanding that the chattering classes have for what they tend to call “ordinary people” (a favourite BBC phrase which as far as I can tell means anyone who doesn’t work for the BBC, the Guardian or the government). With the exceptions of a few sociopaths, we “ordinary people” don’t relish the chance to hurt burglars. We would simple like to know, when forced into taking defensive action, that the law would be on our side. All things being equal, though, we’d prefer not to have our homes invaded in the first place.

The real problems arise, though, when government legislates (and the Courts interpret) for the few sociopaths rather than for the vast majority of people. And the fact that the media is full of snooty do-gooders and finger-waggers like Berlins doesn’t help the situation.

David

Horace,

“With the exceptions of a few sociopaths, we ‘ordinary people’ don’t relish the chance to hurt burglars.”

For the sake of argument, I’m assuming the police don’t arrive to find the intruder bound, greased and naked, wearing just a gimp mask and with nipple-clamps attached to his person. That might be a tad suspicious. Though not, I think, unjust.

JuliaM

"And there are plenty of news stories that, if taken at face value, suggest far too much legal concern for people whose choices and actions put them way beyond sympathy."

Oh, indeed. On that thread in CiF there's a guy right now (claiming to be a police officer) bemoaning the fact that Tony Martin kept getting burgled because he has property and didn't have better security....

Horace Dunn

David

Hmmm yes. The scenario you describe could well put you on the wrong side of PC Plod. Probably also best if the householder isn't dressed as a policeman and beating the bound-up intruder with a rubber truncheon.

If we go on this way you'll start getting some strange visitors via google searches...

R. Sherman

Even in the United States, self-defense is limited to a proportional response predicated upon what the defender reasonably believes is the attacker's intent. Thus, the standard is both objective, i.e. what is proportional, and subjective, i.e. what did the defender think. As a practical matter, when self-defense occurs inside a home against an intruder, in most jurisdictions it is the intruder's tough luck.

Regards.

David

“If we go on this way you’ll start getting some strange visitors via google searches...”

I think we crossed that bridge some time ago.

macHeath

R. Sherman,

For practical purposes, at least in the state of Arizona, proportionality only comes into play once an attacker is disabled or fleeing. We are not allowed to chase attackers down the street for three blocks and shoot them like the vermin they clearly are.

In a case of self defense, we're clearly in the realm of potentially fatal harm for the defendant. If someone breaks into your house for pretty much any reason, or your vehicle while you're in it, the defendant can safely assume his life is in danger and respond with deadly force. Quite a few states, ones with "castle" laws, take similar stances.

Proportionality is a red herring. Criminals do not declare their weapons and intent beforehand. Self defense is not an arms race where the defendant gets to match tools up to and including ones the attacker bears.

When a criminal breaks into a domicile, he has a fairly reasonable expectation of encountering an inhabitant. It is therefore perfectly reasonable for said inhabitant to expect the criminal will harm him. The criminal really has only two options, run or fight. Sure, he can threaten, but he has to be prepared to back up the threat or fold. If the criminal leaves posthaste, the inhabitant is safe and no longer needs to defend himself. If the criminal remains, the inhabitant is in mortal danger.

Responding with deadly force in a self defense situation is not taking the law into your own hands. It is immediate self protection. You are not determining the criminal's guilt and handing down a sentence outside of the legal system. You are putting an end to the immediate danger. Self defense is an exemption from the laws prohibiting the harm of another person. Once the danger has passed, you are no longer exempt.

Sorry for the lengthy post.

Candice

"Last week, the Daily Mail reported that a father was told by a play equipment supervisor he was not allowed to take pictures of his own children on a slide."

What's *that* job pay? How sad for those of you in the UK that your play equipment is so dangerous, so camera-shy, and apparently so shoddy that it needs to be supervised at all times. Maybe just when children with photophilic parents are nearby? It sounds like something the Guardian should investigate.

TDK

"How sad for those of you in the UK that your play equipment is so dangerous"

I don't know this particular story but let me hazard a guess. My children's school pondered banning photos by parents of the school play. My swimming pool has prominent notices banning the taking of any photographs. The motivation in both cases is the anticipation of paedophilia. The playground supervisor seems to have had the same motivation in mind.

see here
http://216.239.59.104/search?q=cache:_BHlDmz1fWQJ:www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1545149/Angry-response-follows-bid-to-ban-photos-in-the-park.html+photos+of+children+banning&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=8&gl=uk
http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/will-paranoid-parents-criminalize-photographing-children/

JuliaM

That'll be this one:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1035315/Father-branded-pervert--photographing-children-public-park.html

'Daily Mail' again. I see a pattern here...

"Mr Crutchley, 39, who had taken pictures only of his own children, was so enraged that he found two policemen who confirmed he had done nothing wrong.

Yesterday he said: ‘What is the world coming to when anybody seen with a camera is assumed to be doing things that they should not?

‘This parental paranoia is getting completely out of hand. I was so shocked. One of the police officers told me that it was just the way society is these days. He agreed with me that it was madness.’ "

'Just the way society is these days'. Did you ever hear a more depressing phrase?

Rob

I keep a cricket bat in my bedroom. I keep my cricket gear there because there is no room elsewhere in the flat. Is that premeditation? Frankly, I don't give a f*ck. Anyone entering my flat without permission who I perceive to be a danger becomes the subject of a hook shot to the head. Questions can be asked afterwards, when I am still alive.

The Left does not want self-reliant citizens who can defend themselves and their property. They despise you (us), and want to keep you weak and at the mercy of the State (them, in other words). By owning property you are, by default, a criminal and the person who is seeking to relieve it from you at 3am is the real victim.

EBD

I'm agree with David and the commenters here. How indeed should one even attempt to surmise the intentions of an unseen, unknown person who has entered your home? Particularly if they do so at night when, it's reasonable to assume, the intruder would have to be aware that on balance of probability the occupants are home. The feelings one would have at such a moment would be at a considerable remove from the cool nose-raising evaluations in the legal proceedings sure to follow.

In certain situations one's monkey-brain lights up like a Christmas tree -- a tribe member you never met screams in some proto-language that the rabid bear has entered the cave, as it were -- making it fully understandable, if not reasonable, to truly believe in that dry-mouth moment that the intruder is a member of the New Christie Manson family; at the very least, you'd be certain it ain't Santy Claus.

The problem, though -- just to be difficult here, and for the sake of discussion -- is that if the law allows for murder in certain situations of uncertainty, a certain number of people will not only use the new law to kill someone they already want dead, but will even engineer airtight circumstances to do just that, and for reasons that have nothing to do with their own fear of being in fire physical harm.

Hypothetical situation number one: You find out that your wife has been having an affair. Through some circuitous connection, pure happenstance, you know the identity of the individual in question, and what he looks like, but no one else on earth, including your wife, knows that. Your wife has already admitted to having an affair, though, and when you threaten to divorce her she swears she'll end the affair. You decide to give your marriage another chance.

You leave to attend a week-long work-related conference in another country, but at the airport you receive a cell-phone call informing you that the conference has been canceled. You arrive home at 11 pm, surprising your wife who, thinking you'd be gone, had invited her lover Gino over for one last something-to-remember. He was scheduled to arrive at 2 am, under cover of darkness, and was told to let himself in with the key your wife had given him.

You come in, take off your tie at the front door, and begin to engage your wife in a conversation that's so engaged, so loving, so eye-to-eye as to not give her any opportunity to leave the room to make the phone call she needs to make; you grab her by the hand, and with an open-mouthed, head-twisting wink, you say "let's go to bed." Being feckless by nature, and immobilized by the horrifying situation, including the wink, she accompanies you to the bedroom.

She is sleeping fitfully beside you when you hear someone in the front entry. You grab your gun and tip-toe quietly to the top of the stairs in your velour robe. There, at the front door, is Gino, taking off his shoes and sniffing his armpits. You know he's there to have a frolic with your wife, and not to rob or kill you, but you shoot him fatally nonetheless, with a carefully-placed shot. Later, you plead the case that you were simply terrified that this man you'd never seen was some maniac out to harm you, you wife, and her unborn child. Justice, or murder? Personally, I'm ambivalent

You find out later that it's not your baby. This is neither here nor there. I just wanted to throw that in, as this is such a contentious issue.

Hypothetical number two: a fellow and his wife have unofficially separated, but not divorced. Hubby has a life insurance policy specifying that in the event of his untimely death she would receive five-hundred thousand pounds. His wife, in a plan she and her new lover concocted, asks her husband to bring over some of her things to her new home at 11:30 pm, after she gets home from her late shift. She had told him to push really hard on the door, because it's really sticky; in fact, the door is locked, but the door jamb has been carefully pre-weakened. The hubster arrives, on time and in the dark, with an unintentional bang; the door knocks over the carefully place vase, at which point her new lover springs up with later-recounted fearfulness, and shoots him, fully believing -- *cough cough* -- that he was an intruder out to do god-knows-what.

The possibilities are mindless, but you get the idea: you invite someone over, for whatever reason, and tell them to come after dark. You shoot them, because some new law allows for people to kill intruders. Could there be unforeseen problems with such a law?

I think that sometimes certain laws are drafted, without the lawmakers admitting it, with the law of numbers in the back of their mind. Not that I'd be chinscratching about the topic if someone were lumbering around just outside my bedroom door; I'd be thinking "damn, I should have got around to buying that gun", or perhaps "damn, I wish Rob was here with his cricket bat."

EBD

Just to be clear, after all that, "I'm agree." Yes I am.

David

EBD,

“The problem, though… is that if the law allows for murder in certain situations of uncertainty, a certain number of people will not only use the new law to kill someone they already want dead, but will even engineer airtight circumstances to do just that...”

Indeed. I’m assuming that evidence of forced entry will be expected. There are, of course, loopholes to consider – copied keys, negligence, diabolical schemes, etc. Here, I defer to any lawyers among us, or crime thriller enthusiasts. I didn’t realise you had such Hitchockian flair. Can’t wait for the finished script.

The Kusabi

EBD

Re your hypotheticals:-

Are these supposed to be reasons why people should face the current risk of legal reprisal for not allowing some violent criminal to have their wicked way with them?

Also, why would you think that such schemers - if there actually were such people - would wait for a change in the law to put the nefarious plans into effect? What about such changes in the law would make it more likely that they would succeed?

Because really, as soon as any link betwen them and the supposed intruder was discovered, that would give the police grounds for suspicion about their story, wouldn't it? This sort of thing wouldn't come up in cases where the dead criminal and the victim of the crime had never met before, would it?

Are you suggesting that the current prohibitions on self-defence should remain in place to prevent jilted persons from gaining revenge or life insurance under cover of 'self-defence', never mind the cost to innocent victims of crime? Does that even make any sense?

EBD

"Why would you think that such schemers....would wait for a change in the law to put the nefarious plants into effect? What (is it) about such changes in the law that would make it more likely that they would succeed?"

Well, to get to the last question first, if the law allows lethal force to be used against intruders, such implausible schemes as I described would obviously be more likely to succeed, assuming the goal is to get away with it without being charged with murder or manslaughter. As for why they'd wait for a change in the law, I'm not suggesting they would; they'd come up with something else. But if they were caught doing that something else, they couldn't get off scot-free as they could by using the "I was frightened by what I thought was an intruder" defense.

Again -- for what it's worth -- I personally believe that people have a right to defend themselves with as much force as necessary against intruders. The point I was trying to make was a narrow one, concerning the possible unforeseen implications of a particular law. The sort of examples typically wielded -- always convincingly, I might add -- in making the case that lethal force is justified in the face of an intruder are entirely premised on the notion that the intruder had been identified as a dangerous intruder, was known to be a dangerous intruder, whereas in the real world it's often the opposite: the terror felt by a resident is predicated on his *not* knowing who he hears moving around in his home. The law of numbers (in the vernacular, not mathematical theory sense) would suggest that there will be many, many instances in a given year in which someone heard moving about in a house or apartment, or climbing in a window, say, who cannot be identified, is not in fact an intruder. Maybe a family member is coming home early from a trip, and the family didn't get the message he'd left alerting them to that fact; maybe a teenage girl has invited her boyfriend to come over, and to come through the window, and when her father hears something, he assumes the worst -- these things do happen.

I'm didn't mean to suggest that these sort of situations should have any bearing on a person's right to smote a nasty intruder, just that lawmakers have to consider all the possible consequences of any law.

David

“…maybe a teenage girl has invited her boyfriend to come over, and to come through the window, and when her father hears something, he assumes the worst…”

Sounds like a basis for some hilarious romantic comedy. Honey, I Shot Your Boyfriend. It would practically write itself.

Anna

Followed by the (also hilarious) sequel: Honey, I Shot Your Boyfriend Again.

Rob

I double lock my door every night. I live on the first floor. If you are in my flat, there are no 'unlikely circumstances' which would justify you being there. I will assume you mean me harm, and I'll club you. It's a bit simplisme for the Lefties, and unfortunately they are in charge, but I think it is an attitude which, in the unfortunate and unlikely scenario outlined above, would mean I actually live to be prosecuted by a malign state rather than hypocritically and posthumously hailed as a "tragic victim" by some wanker of a police spokesman.

Lovernios

You've got it right, Rob. When it comes to self-defence in the home, the immediacy of the threat trumps considerations of unjust prosecution. Further, if you are forced to defend home and family, make sure the intruder is dead. Left alive, he can pursue civil action and may find a sympathetic judge and jury. To that end, a hand gun is best or in my case an eight-inch Cold Steel Tanto is always at hand.

Lovernios

By the way, if I've read a couple of stories from the UK correctly, is "knife control" coming soon to Britain?

EBD

Okay, okay. Post hoc, all-the-information-you-need Ma'am hypotheticals which by their very design conclusively prove the righteousness of a category of action have their pointy way against the realistic prospect that in non-hypothetical situations non-intruders may be misidentified in the dark. My rather minor point about the possible unintended consequences of a law, meant to be just one more consideration, has obviously instead grabbed your wrists just at the moment when you're about to defend yourself from mortal harm in a perfected hypothetical situation. Must be frustrating.

Point well-missed. Give 'er.

The Kusabi

'Point well missed',

You can't be surprised at that when you didn't even try to post something coherent, not make any kind of 'point'.

Jay N

Surely if you have responsibility for others in the property it is beholden on you to presume that any individual that breaks in has the dark motives imaginable, and to take steps to render them no longer a threat. The most extreme force you can bring to bear is essential in ensuring that the threat is removed, because if you get it wrong and they overpower you there is no longer anyone to protect others in the house. The reasonable man approach should be fine, because any reasonable man finding an intruder in the same house as his children should be seeking to quickly and effecively incapacitate them, i.e. sneaking up behind them and clocking them with the hardest, heaviest thing they can reach. Unfortunately it seems that nobody who makes the decision is capable of thinking like this.

mojo

Q: "A thief is killed in the night. Whose hand is upon the bow?"
A: "The thief's."
-- Shoshone Teaching Riddle

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