The London Sunday Telegraph is Apparently Serious About This

I posted last week about the London Telegraph pursuing legislation to make it legal to use whatever force a homeowner finds necessary to resist a home invader without fear of prosecution. They followed up last Sunday with a column of stories of previous victims that illustrates the problem quite well.

Stories of bravery and tragedy from crime victims

By Karyn Miller

The public gave overwhelming backing last week to The Telegraph’s campaign to allow people to protect their homes and families from intruders without fear of criminal prosecution or compensation claims.

Hundreds of messages of support were sent to the newspaper, many from people, including a former police officer and a security camera manufacturer, who have been subjected to violent attacks in their own homes. Some said they had used force to fend off their attackers only to be arrested and charged with assault. Others argued that the concept of “reasonable force”, with which victims can legally defend themselves, is so ill-defined that the balance of the law is weighted in the criminals’ favour.

Eric Butler, 73, a retired credit controller from Chingford, Essex, said: “The concept of reasonable force is nonsense. I should know: when I defended myself, I had the book thrown at me.”

In 1987, Mr Butler’s plight provoked an outcry. He was attacked on a London Underground train by a man who kicked him in the face, grabbed him by the throat and began banging his head against the carriage.

Only Mr Butler knew that the walking stick he carried concealed a four-inch ornamental blade. As the grip around his neck tightened and he felt his consciousness fade, Mr Butler unsheathed the blade and fought back.

The attacker was taken to hospital with abdominal wounds and later received an 18-month prison sentence. Mr Butler was convicted of carrying an offensive weapon, fined £200 and given a 28-day suspended prison sentence. On appeal the sentence was quashed but the fine raised to £300.

“I still have the stick and if the incident was repeated, I would do exactly the same thing,” he said last week. “Had I not repelled my attacker sufficiently, I wouldn’t have had a second chance.”

Now that you’ve admitted to still possessing an offensive weapon, expect a visit from Big Brother. Mr. Butler was mentioned in the excellent piece All The Way Down The Slippery Slope by Dave Kopel and Joseph Olsen from 1999. Read that. It discusses how the UK got to where they are today.

Readers who rang to back the campaign believed that the law must be changed so that intruders lose all protection once they break into someone else’s property.

Mark Mercer, 65, from Scapegoat Hill near Huddersfield, West Yorks, said: “At long last someone is coming out against the asinine law that protects burglars’ rights.”

In January Mr Mercer, who owns a security camera company, held a burglar at bay with his pocket knife while his wife, Mary, telephoned the police. A second intruder escaped.

“As we waited for the police our burglar, who had a small injury that did not require so much as a sticking plaster, sat on our sofa and announced, ‘I am going to sue you for this.’

“These men entered our house noisily, presumably confident that we would not dare to disturb them.

“What really gets me is that they felt secure in their belief that if action was taken against them they could probably do better out of the compensation than they could out of the burglary.”

Mr Mercer’s burglar was jailed for three years and has not as yet launched his civil action.

Note the “yet.”

Simon Jones, 36, the director of a Liverpool chauffeur company and a former police officer, said: “If the definition of reasonable force was cleared up, there wouldn’t be the problem of criminals suing for compensation. Everyone would know where they stood.”

Mr Jones confronted armed burglars in his home last year, outside a room where his wife and two-year-old daughter were cowering. When they pulled out a 7in knife and threatened to cut his head off, Mr Jones gave them the keys to the Volvo and the Mercedes on his drive. The men were never caught. “I would like to know, for future reference: is the golf club by my bed a weapon or not?” If there was a next time, Mr Jones said, he intended to use it.

There’s that “chilling effect” again.

George Knowles, 62, a former Cadbury’s employee from Birkenhead, Wirral, believed that his parents’ deaths were hastened by a burglary in December 2001.

“As far as I am concerned, my parents were murdered by these men. They never expected to be attacked in their own home.” During the raid Mr Knowles’ 80-year-old father, who had arthritis, was dragged around his house with his arm twisted behind his back. Mr Knowles’ blind mother, also 80, was pinioned to her bed.

The burglars made off with the couple’s savings of £2,000 and were never caught. Mr and Mrs Knowles never recovered from the ordeal and both died within a year. Their son said: “It is time to take a stand. We should have taken a stand years ago. People burgling your home should not be there. If they are, you should have the authority to do something.”

You do. The State just doesn’t recognize it.

Many readers had desperately sad stories to tell. Patricia Clifford, 66, spoke about Bill Clifford, her brother-in-law. The 77-year-old from Aldershot, Hants, brandished a toy gun at youths who had kicked his door, broken his windows and made his life miserable. He was promptly charged with possession of an imitation firearm.

On the day in 2001 that he was due in court, Mr Clifford hanged himself at home. Mrs Clifford said: “Your campaign has my support. What happened to Bill was terrible. He was a law-abiding man all his life. He had been telling the police about everything that was going on, but nothing was done. He never told anybody about being arrested – he was such a proud man.”

I mentioned Mr. Clifford in that months-long argument discussion with Tim Lambert. Mr. Clifford was not the only man to have committed suicide under similar circumstances.

Earlier this year Elizabeth Tighe, who is in her eighties, saw off a knife-wielding burglar with the help of her husband Francis, who stuck his foot out from his wheelchair and sent the intruder flying. The man fled from the Tighes’ home in Bromsgrove, Hereford and Worcester, empty-handed and turned himself in to police.

Mrs Tighe said: “I don’t know what I would have done if he had been more violent, but I would have defended myself – and I should be able to do so without worrying about what the police will say.”

Note that the assailant had a knife. I doubt that he expected a couple of unarmed pensioners to resist.

David Thomas, 64, a retired naval officer from Burnham, Bucks, suggested that the laws on householders’ rights be remodelled on those of the American state of Oklahoma, where householders can use deadly force against intruders. If any injuries or deaths result, householders are immune from compensation claims. Since the law was passed in 1988, burglaries in Oklahoma have halved.

But… but… that can’t be! Those two facts can’t be related! Oklahomans must be bloodthirsty killers just waiting to blow someone away! (But that can’t be responsible for burglars there finding a safer way to make a living.)

“The reason that such laws have not been passed over here is because the British government fears and distrusts the British people,” said Mr Thomas.

That’s been my assertion all along.

Hazel Densem, 59, a nurse from Macclesfield, Cheshire, registered her support for the campaign: “Your campaign is very important. Most of us would do anything to keep our families safe and the law as it stands is simply not good enough.”

Julian Blackwell, the 75-year-old chairman of the Milestone media group, contacted The Sunday Telegraph from his Oxfordshire home to declare himself a “passionate supporter”. He has obtained a legal opinion on the definition of “reasonable force” and hopes to organise seminars to teach people about their rights and how they can protect themselves.

I wish the Telegraph all the best in their quest. I doubt they’ll accomplish much, but at least they’re TRYING. Is the temperature in Hell dropping?

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