So the Director of Public Prosecutions has decided to reject the possibility of changing UK self defence laws in light of the Munir Hussain case. PC Ellie Bloggs explains why this was probably the right idea:
Mr Hussain had been subjected to an ordeal, but where he went wrong was gathering a posse, chasing the offender outside, and then continuing to beat him until he was almost dead. Worse still, he made up an array of lies but was found out by independent witnesses. He was tried by jury, who if they had felt enough sympathy with his plight could have acquitted him. Following a guilty verdict the judge had little choice but to jail him. As we keep saying on these blogs, GBH with Intent is a serious crime that should attract jail. And what isn’t revealed in the attached article is whether Mr Hussain had previous convictions for violence. I sympathise with his situation, but surely a few kicks would have done the job and they could have then detained the burglar for the police.
There are some criminal acts, like rape and motoring offences, that have the power to change hang-’em-flog-’em conservatives into the weakest kind of bleeding-heart liberal. Any case in which a householder attacks an intruder falls into this pattern.
The classic cold case of ‘self defence’ was Tony Martin. Just after the Norfolk man had shot and killed a burglar, Private Eye collected editorials from most major newspapers, and columns by senior politicians. All began on a variation of: ‘Tony Martin is no hero. But…’
Ten years on, you will still meet people who defend the farmer. Tony Martin’s case fits the classic narrative of white male victimhood. A hard-working taxpayer is plagued by gypsy criminals that rich liberal judges refuse to jail. They vandalise his property, steal his possessions and break into his home. Finally, the householder reaches the end of his patience. And what happens? The courts put him in prison and let the burglars go with a slap on the wrist. Not only does the government refuse to uphold law, order and property rights – it takes action against those who do.
That narrative obscured the reality of the case, which, as Richard Seymour shows, was a little different:
A farmer wieghed down with guns, and with a history of shooting them at people, shoots a 16 year old boy in the back as he runs away from the house, which the boy had been trying to burgle. All evidence indicates that the killing was deliberate, and not self-defense. The man was first jailed for life, having expressed no remorse, and then had his conviction reduced to manslaughter on account of diminished responsibility. The response: overwhelming sympathy, even among liberals, for the murderer.
Only in England could a man become a folk hero for shooting a kid in the back as he screamed for mercy. (As Seymour wrote, Martin had a thing about travellers, having spoken of ‘putting Gypsies in the middle of a field, surrounding it with barbed wire and machine gunning them’ and he has also endorsed the BNP). The Norfolk farmer became a kind of spokesman for a group that we hear a great deal from – the comfortable white man with a chip on his shoulder.
Not all self defence cases are the same. We had what looked like a Manchester Tony Martin in Linda Walker, jailed for shooting at some kids with an airgun. Reading about the case, though, you can feel a degree of sympathy: the shooting followed years of targeted harrassment of her family by local thugs, and it appears that Walker shot at the pavement near the youth’s feet as a warning, rather than directly at the head or body to cause harm. The fact that Walker is out of prison and back at work doesn’t make you feel uneasy. She’s a very different animal to Martin, a homicidal eccentric with a history of gun-related offences.
This reveals more than our fetish for land and home ownership – something the great crash should have cured us of. The whole idea of homeowners’ rights – if there’s an intruder in your home, you should be able to deal with him as you wish – carries a sinister corollary: that people who don’t have the strength to protect their homes deserve to have their possessions stolen and their families threatened. It’s an old and dark voice from a time where there weren’t such luxuries as police, prosecutors, courts and jails. The human swamp we think we’ve left.