We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Has the tide turned on the right to forceful self-defence?

Such are my internetting skills that I had to go here first, and then to here, before finally getting to here, the final here being a Telegraph piece about the restoration to the people of Britain (or maybe, it’s hard to tell, the mere restatement of) the right of forceful self-defence.

Home owners and “have-a go-heroes” have for the first time been given the legal right to defend themselves against burglars and muggers free from fear of prosecution.

So, if someone breaks into my flat in the dead of night, and I get lucky with my late uncle’s old cricket bat which I still keep handy just in case, I won’t have to be quite so fearful of legal complications.

There is, after all, something to be said in favour of lame duck governments, desperately trying something – anything – in order to save a few fragments from the forthcoming electoral wreckage.

My guess is they were ploughing through the tedious and now desperately dispiriting rigmarole of yet more focus grouping, with very little to show for it indeed other than deepening hatred of the government, until suddenly someone piped up with something about “if I break the skull of a burglar when all I was trying to do was protect my home I didn’t do anything wrong” or “it’s ridiculous that old men who fight back with their walking sticks get arrested but not the scumbags who attack them”, or some such. And the entire room exploded with unanimous agreement. And then they tried it on a few more focus groups, and got the same response. And since this is an actual policy proposal, and not a mere howl of loathing, and since nothing else seems to be persuading anyone that this government is not a total disaster when it comes to restraining criminals in any way whatsoever, why not give it a try? “I mean, at least we could make an announcement.” Which is what I of course suspect this to be. The government screws up the small print in every other law it passes these days, so I expect this law, in the unlikely event that it ever materialises any time soon, to be just as bad, and quite possibly to be yet another few sneaky steps in the wrong direction rather than any sort of step in the right one.

No matter. That this government is even pretending to talk sense about the right to forceful self-defence – instead of the usual evil tripe about waiting several days for the police to show up, maybe, with counselling pamphlets – is a huge improvement in the political atmospherics of my country. Many of this government’s supporters will be thrown into well-deserved torment and angst on this topic. Unreconstructed lefties will regard this announcement as just one more reason why the forthcoming collapse of this government really doesn’t matter, which is all to the good. Saner lefties, still determinedly wrong about such things as income tax but less wrong about this topic, will feel free to make themselves heard, and to praise their government for this bold initiative. The opposition will scrutinise the proposal for evidence of the duplicity that I pretty much now assume. And, you never know, it just might be genuine.

Meanwhile, am I allowed to say, sotto voce, that I did, sort of, see this coming? I wonder if those who commented derisively on the apparently absurd optimism of that earlier posting saw this latest proclamation coming. Even I am amazed at how quickly the tide may now be beginning to turn. Because, restoring (or maybe just re-stating for the benefit of judges and policemen who now assume other things) the right (itself no small thing) to forceful self-defence leads will lead directly to further discussion, about the means of actually being able to set about doing such defence. I have my cricket bat. So, how about a gun? The principle has now been conceded. Now let’s talk practice.

Definitely a small victory, and maybe, just maybe, something slightly bigger than that.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VKEmail this to someone

28 comments to Has the tide turned on the right to forceful self-defence?

  • doug in Colorado

    Hooray for our side! I hope.

  • Ian B

    Never go down onto the beach if the tide suddenly goes out a surprisingly long way. It means there’s a tsunami coming.

    (Students of recent British political history may remember the resounding cheers as Labour apparently liberalised the alcohol laws; they would then note the tsunami of prohibitionism from the ruling network which has followed. The ruling class clears old laws out of the way to make room for more intensive and comprehensive extra-legislative regulation and social engineering by their network).

  • RAB

    A couple of years ago,
    I got my arm broken in defence of one of my neighbours children, who was being attacked by her pissed up boyfriend.
    This attack happened in my own home.

    Well, I spent most of the rest of the night down at the BRI A&E.

    So when the nice policeman and woman turned up at the ungodly hour of 8.30am next morning, I was not exactly up with the lark.

    They took my statement with me propped up on pillows in my bedroom.

    Now policepersons like visiting our house for some reason, perhaps it is the excellent coffee and cakes, crumpets even, that we serve up.
    The chimney pot sleuths stayed till the end of their shift!

    But this genial officer, looking around my bedroom, and admiring it, spotted the Titanium headed driver I keep in the corner next to the bed. Yes shades of Brians Cricket bat, exactly!

    What’s that for up here, if I may say so, sir?

    He said with a twinkle in his eye!

    Er well I practice putting with it now and again, nice carpet isn;t it? not too much borrow on the knap…

    You might want to change it for a real putter sir,
    Much easier to use at close quarters, if you know what I mean.

    So the rank and file are, and have always been on the side of the right to self defence of ourselves, especially in our own homes.

    Now how do we get rid of the Management?

    Yes Sir Ian, and your almost homogenous ilk, we are talking ’bout you!

  • spence

    I’m very much in favour of householders (without a serious criminal conviction) being able to own a handgun for the protection of their own home in the UK.

    I would only caveat my enthusiasm with one small point; I sometimes get so angry at these idiots who purport to run the Government that should they be unlucky enough to be within range when I was pissed-off at them then I would have great difficulty restraining my trigger finger! I’m joking – but God knows they are straining the limits of my temper with some of the ridiculous things they are imposing on this country. Why won’t they all just go and throw themselves in the sea.

  • Ian B

    And talking prohibitionist tsunamis, here’s another wave. I despair for my country, I really do.

  • Hooray, except for incidents like this which make me very doubtful indeed.

  • Kevin B

    So Laura Norder’s got her tits out for the lads again, eh? Must be an election in the offing.

    I saw two headlines featuring the lass today.

    The first was something like “Police to be made more accountable to local communities.” Which, to my cynical old mind means the most vociferous troublemakers in the area and their gang bosses community leaders.

    The second was “Police targets to be abandoned.” To which my response was; “‘Blige me, guvner, do you mean to tell me that targets ain’t the answer to everything?”

    So now that the bobbies haven’t got GBH targets to fill, then provided the burglar you whack with your bat isn’t a member of the dominant local community, you might have a chance of getting away with it.

  • Yes, I’m doing my little bit of meme spreading for this too…

  • Howaido

    A glimmer of hope for you folks. Just remember that when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

  • Laird

    I just have to scratch my head in wonder. It is illegal for you poor folks to tackle a burglar in your home? I can see why there might be some squeamishness about the use of deadly force, but are your police really that sensitive about competition?

    One small observation on Mr. Pooter’s post and blog link: In your oh-so-slow-and-deliberate reintroduction of firearms into polite society, are you really advocating that the government give guns and ammunition to the favored few? You don’t want people to buy their own? All I can say is socialism is even more pervasive there than I had thought. So I’m left scratching my head at the end of this post just as at the beginning.

  • nick g.

    I wonder if Britain will be in the absurd position of allowing you to use a gun, except you can’t buy one because they’re not allowed into the country? How common are gun shops? You might end up like Holland, where you can serve cannabis, but you can’t grow it! The stuff just appears like magic, somehow.

  • Ian B

    Well, we’re already in the position in which you can buy a knife, but the police may arrest you if you try to carry it home from the shops.

  • YATALLI

    Although some of the country specific reference here is lost on this poor yankee, I agree entire with the sentiment. I thankfully live in a place where I can freely carry a firearm, exposed or otherwise, without the need for permission from a government. Take heart and keep pressing the cause, Ian.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Ian B makes a good point. I wonder how any sellers of household goods such as kitchen knives realise that it is technically illegal for their customers to take some of their goods home.

    What a dumbass country we are.

    Brian is right, though, to suggest there has been a subtle shift in the political weather, so I don’t share the knee-jerk pessimism of some others here. But pessimism is understandable.

  • John K

    Ian B makes a good point. I wonder how any sellers of household goods such as kitchen knives realise that it is technically illegal for their customers to take some of their goods home.

    Not really Jonathan. You can legally have an “offensive weapon” with you in a public place if you have “lawful authority or a reasonable excuse.” This pernicious piece of law was the result of the laughably named Prevention of Crime Act 1953.

    The upshot is that someone bringing a knife home from a shop (assuming he has the receipt to prove it) will be able to show a “reasonable excuse” as to why he has an offensive weapon in his possession. It gets more interesting when you look at what constitutes “lawful authority”. The police carry batons, which would otherwise be offensive weapons, because they have the lawful authority to do so inasmuch as they are upholding the Queen’s Peace. But they don’t have any sort of licence or certificate to back this up, they simply assert their lawful authority to do so, and the courts and public accept it. But the obligation to uphold the Queen’s Peace is not the sole prerogative of the police, who are a comparatively recent arrival in English law, and who are still deemed to be civilians, “just like us”. Thus, we all have such an obligation, and if carrying a police style baton for the same purpose as the police, we also have the same lawful authority. Just don’t expect the police to tell you that, or even to know about it.

    As to the bunch of left wing 1970’s student union skanks who form our government, they are the shit on my shoes, and I don’t believe a word the two faced fucks say. I take their current blather about self-defence in that light.

  • Jim

    Ditto, to all of John K’s statements and sentiments.

    And sotto voce, Brian, you’re still dreaming… Wait til after the election, and see how far it goes.

  • Letalis Maximus, Esq.

    I fear I have to agree with the dissenters here. This is almost certainly nothing more than a noisy, but temporary, distraction from the necessary business at hand.

    Forced reliance upon the government to provide something as individually fundamental as the physical defense of one’s own self is simply too critical for the continued enforcement of the idea that it is from the government that all good things come. It is tied to the idea that only the government can be trusted with the power to inflict physical or even deadly force, and it follows then that only the government can be trusted with a great many other things. When you have successfully stripped from the subjects the ability to even defend themselves from physical attack, you have gone most of the way to successfully stripping them of the ability (and eventually even the desire because they begin to distrust themselves and their own abilities) to defend themselves from any other attack, including attacks on their private fisc, their rights of self-determination, their rights to privacy, etc., etc. As the Chinese say, “the nail that stands up must be hammered back down.”

  • willis

    “Brian is right, though, to suggest there has been a subtle shift in the political weather, so I don’t share the knee-jerk pessimism of some others here. But pessimism is understandable.”

    Sadly, pessimism may be more justified than you think. All rights apparently belong to your government to give or revoke, yo-yo style, as it sees fit. Thank goodness we had the fortitude to get rid of your government and install our own. It was us who gave our government its rights to govern us, retaining certain rights, called the “Bill of Rights,” in the process. Our mentally ill left-wingers continuously try to negate the right to arm ourselves, but continue to get slapped down, as witnessed by our Supreme Court’s decision in “Heller” just recently. When you rebel against the coming installation of Sharia law by the more assertive element of your country, you may want to consider a bill of rights, untouchable by the ever-changing government.

  • toad

    I fear something like what happened during early part of the French revolution. They’ll restore just enough rights to give the populace a taste but no more, or even do a roll back regardless of which party holds your Parliment. When the expectations of a more secure life don’t come when expected then look out for the working majority to figure out that, “There is more of us than there are of them.”

  • Midwesterner

    Brian, you may be interested, there is a good post related to this topic at Volokh right now. The reason I mention it is the statement that “Some 17th and 18th century commentators considered self defense to be, not only the permissible thing to do, but the morally required thing to do (for the same reason that suicide was considered immoral).”

    The meta-context regarding self defense was first formed and articulated in Britain. Our ‘American’ beliefs about self defense were imported from Britain. Even if there is a strong popular dislike of things American, people in the UK need only explore their own history to find that an articulated moral right to self defense is in fact a British creation.

  • Daveon

    It is illegal for you poor folks to tackle a burglar in your home?

    No, it is not. Not it has not been illegal.

    The CPS and a bunch of others repeated that point of law quite recently.

    What is potentially illegal is the use of deadly force which does get into a murky legal hole.

    If you kill somebody in your house you need to be able to show that you were in fear of your life and used force proportional to the threat you faced.

    Thus it has pretty much ever been, or at least was in the 80s when my father sat me down and explained some of the facts of life about interacting with the police when it came to the subject of self defense after a first cousin ended up facing a manslaughter charge.

  • Nick g.: funnyyou should bring this up.

  • Andy

    If you find a burglar in your home and beat the worthless piece of shit to a pulp,why bother with the police?make the law work for you and make the cops prove that you are responsible for his wounds,anyone that has seen a few episodes of CSI should have have a working knowledge of how to remove/destroy forensic evidence and if it comes down to his word against yours, without evidence the cops will drop the matter, especially if he already has a criminal record.

  • Sunfish

    If you find a burglar in your home and beat the worthless piece of shit to a pulp,why bother with the police?make the law work for you and make the cops prove that you are responsible for his wounds,anyone that has seen a few episodes of CSI should have have a working knowledge of how to remove/destroy forensic evidence and if it comes down to his word against yours, without evidence the cops will drop the matter, especially if he already has a criminal record.

    1) If you rely on television (especially CSI) for your understanding of either law or forensics, you have a very difficult road ahead of you. It’s not funny how painfully wrong that show is about just about everything. (“Law and Order” is marginally better. There are no TV shows, at least not made in the US, that are any good for realistic detail and that won’t change until Mariska Hargitay spends an entire episode on recanting victims and Chris Noth spends an entire season on cold unarmed robberies)

    2) Unless UK cops are radically different from the US variety, getting caught in a lie is the worst thing that can happen to you. We have an assumption that people who lie necessarily are people with something to hide, and will generally keep digging and digging. On the other hand, people who call us[1] and say “This guy just broke into my house and threatened me and I feared for my safety and parted his hair with a Pulaski to stop the threat” will often find that we show up, stand around for half an hour, and offer our experience as to which janitorial contractors have the best results at cleaning bloodstains out of your carpets.

    3) The fact that the burglar who claims that you attacked him has a record will probably not help you. Under the Human Rights Act, burglars have rights too donchaknow. Apparently, part of those rights are the right to have police and CPS suspend all use of common sense.

    [1] ‘us’ meaning cops in the western US, not Baltimore or Cambridge, MA or similar shitholes.

  • The Kusabi

    So the rank and file are, and have always been on the side of the right to self defence of ourselves, especially in our own homes.

    The rank and file are the ones who’ve been exceedingly happy to arrest people and proceed along the path of charging them no matter how justified their actions. You can trust the rank and file if you want to. I think if you want to put your faith in them you’re a fool.

    I read a story where someone came to the assistance of a copper who was having the shit kicked out of him by a pack of thugs, because he got rough with the biggest thug while doing so, he was arrested for assault in short order.

    Could you perchance tell me why I should trust such a nest of vipers?

  • The relevant piece of legislation can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/6qbpnn

    I think you’ll find it doesn’t change existing law one iota. It seems to mean, in so far I understand what it’s supposed to say, that what seems “reasonable” in retrospect isn’t necessarily what should be expected of someone in the heat of the moment. But you’ve still got some fast-talking to do if you end up in the aftermath of a physical confrontation with a thief.

    It’s always been the case that if there’s two of you and the other guy is dead and you say, “He threatened to kill me, I was in fear for my life and I managed to kill him instead” then the chances are the jury would assume that was OK so long as they liked the look of you.

    This is in no way, shape or form a “Castle Doctrine” which would indicate a change in heart by the chattering classes. Wake me up when that happens.

  • nick g.

    Alisa, good to know that Britain isn’t the only country with weird laws! Nothing as senseless yet in Australia, though we always like to catch up with our relatives!
    We almost had a stupid law here in Sydney, passed in time for the Pope’s visit. It was a vaguely-worded law about not wearing offensive T-shirts. The NSW law courts slapped it down, and common sense has prevailed.
    I see what they wanted in Israel- for old people to make their own weapons! If Grannies were hand-making colts and Magnums, they could defend themselves, and sell the weapons to their neighbours! A Win all round, until thieves take you to court for disrupting their livelihood….

  • Andy

    Sunfish,the quip i made about CSI was flippant and has obviously distracted you from the point i”m trying to make,while cops in the US may offer janitorial advice to a householder who has stomped an intruder,cops in the UK will arrest you and if you admit to stomping him they will write it down in their notes and it will be used against you.if the CPS thinks it has enough evidence to get a conviction you will be charged,regardless of whether the prosecution is in the public interest or not.The Home Office imposed arrest targets that the Police have to follow has stripped them of the power to use their own judgement and discretion.Far too often in the UK,householders have been hauled into court for defending their property,as sad as it is to say,the police must be treated with suspicion.