Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Castle Doctrine in the U.K.

Thanks to FishyJay we have the following report from Sky news Online.

The Tories want to give people who kill burglars while defending their home more protection from prosecution, according to the shadow home secretary.

You don't suppose those crazy Tories are talking about getting away with murder like they do so easily in America? It seems to me that even in the United Kingdom they understand what constitutes "lethal threat," or am I wrong?

Laci provided a link to another article from the Guardian. Here's Laci's post on it.

Talk of the Englishmen defending his castle provokes such a rush of blood to the Conservative head that judgment disappears. Last week Munir Hussain was sent to prison for inflicting violent vengeance on a particularly vicious burglar, and now Chris Grayling has said he wants to rip up the reasonable force test that restricts self-defence. The shadow home secretary's proposal is a populist perennial, but one that never quite blooms, as it makes no sense.

What is so difficult about differentiating between justice and vengeance? I never understood it, but I believe "that's what's the deal we're dealin' in."

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

17 comments:

  1. Funny, but Chris Grayling was absent from parliament the last time this issue came up for a vote, as were a few other tories who "suppported this concept".

    The argument “Would you have done the same?” merits the simple answer: “If so, it would have been right that I should have been punished under the law for having done so.” One facet of a civilised society is that justice is meted out by juries and judges, not by victims at the scene of the crime.

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  2. I just read Laci's post and at the end she had this unrelated quip:

    "Meanwhile, in the US, a police officer pulls a gun on snowball throwers. Funny, but people bitched when British soldiers did the same thing in Boston.
    What a bunch of hypocrites!"


    Now that is funny right there. Laci, that cracked me up. I am afraid that your average modern American though does not even get the joke or the reference.

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  3. So, I suppose this woman should have to spend a couple of years in prison? Isn't that what Great Britain would do?

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  4. Figure it out for yourself if you are so smart, FWM.

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  5. A bit of context: this is in response to the Munir Hussain case. Hussain suffered a home invasion which he managed to chase the invaders away. He chased one guy down the street, cornered him and with the help of another family member, proceeded to beat the crook until he had brain damage with a cricket bat and metal pole. He beat this guy despite being urged to stop and despite the criminal being unconscious.

    This really has nothing to do with defending one's home which everyone in the UK has. It has to do with the use of proportionate force.

    --JadeGold

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  6. I haven't seen specifics of the proposal to comment on it. The UK uses a "reasonable force" standard. We also use a reasonable force standard for things like preventing a trespass, defending property, and in self-defense in some situations.

    Our laws usually differ in that we explicitly say under which circumstances deadly force may (or may not) be used.

    The real difference between the US and UK is how prosecutors and juries treat self-defense. American juries are a lot more forgiving of deadly force being used in self-defense, and so US prosectors are going to tend to not bring cases where they know it's likely going to result in acquittal.

    The law between the US and the UK aren't all that radically different, it's cultural attitudes that make them different in practice. If you brought their laws over here, it probably wouldn't change much practically.

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  7. I should also point out that what these men did would be illegal in any US state. Once they flee the house, you can't then go chasing after them and beat them to death. Once the threat is over, it's a job for the police.

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  8. Besides terms of endearment for Sebastian, the proposed "new" standard of “grossly disproportionate” is as ill-defined as the “reasonable force” one. Not to mention that it will probably still lead to prosecutions such as Hussain's.

    Also, The fact that Hussain's sentence was reduced by half because of the self-defence mitigation seems to be lost in this discourse. Hussain could have been sentenced to five years, but instead received a 30 month sentence (2 1/2 years). Additionally, Hussein precluded the trial of the man he attacked by beating the person and giving him brain damage: it doesn't make much sense to try someone who does not understand what is going on (i.e., diminshed capacity).

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  9. I think Laci is correct. Even if "Castle Doctrine" were to pass in every state in the US, this would still be a felony. Once the attacker breaks off the attack, anything you do to him after that is retribution, not self-defense. Only the state has the power of retribution. It's going to be that way in any civilized legal system.

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  10. I should also point out that what these men did would be illegal in any US state.

    Agreed. I don't think any of us have claimed otherwise. He neutralized the threat, then proceeded to run down a fleeing man and beat him to death.

    It would be like shooting an armed burglar, then dragging him outside, wounded and pleading for his life and shooting him again.

    That would be murder pretty much anywhere. That said, I do think mitigating circumstances come into play in such a situation, since the burglar put himself into that situation by committing a forcible felony against the homeowner.

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  11. Laci,

    What part of what post am I supposed to be figuring out for myself?

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  12. I guess all hope isn't lost for the UK.

    "You don't suppose those crazy Tories are talking about getting away with murder like they do so easily in America?"

    No. It sounds like they want to protect people who aren't stupid enough to sit there scratching their heads, trying to figure out just the right amount of force that will stop the criminal, but not get them thrown in jail.

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  13. AztecRed, No one is saying a responsible homeowner must be "stupid enough to sit there scratching their heads, trying to figure out just the right amount of force that will stop the criminal, but not get them thrown in jail."

    But what I say is shooting first and sorting it out later is wrong as well as exacting retribution after the lethal threat is finished.

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  14. FWM, Thanks for that link. I say that's as clean as a whistle. If the UK would put her in jail, which I'm not convinced they would given the dramatic scene prior to her shooting, they would be wrong.

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  15. But MikeB, how does the example I provided differ than that of Tony Martin who was jailed for doing the very same thing? I disagree and think the UK is screwed up enough to jail the woman.

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  16. "But what I say is shooting first and sorting it out later is wrong as well as exacting retribution after the lethal threat is finished."

    Castle doctrine doesn't protect retributive attacks either.

    And what's wrong with shooting first if someone is a threat to your life? Should you wait until you're attacked before you defend yourself?

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