Friday, December 17, 2004

Reasonable Force

OK, this post isn't about Dubai - it's about proposed changes in UK legislation regarding the rights of burglars and their victims. I was prompted to write it after reading 'Hot Burglaries' from the blog of a UK copper.

The problem is that UK law seems to be heavily biased towards those doing the burgling. The victim has the right to use 'reasonable force' to protect himself and his property, but not to shoot the thieving toe-rag in the back as Tony Martin did.

Under the new law, Tony Martin would still go to jail. I'm not advocating that people should keep guns in their homes, in fact I think the traditional Brit approach of tightly controlling gun use and ownership is the right one. But I do think that if some scumbag has broken into your home, intent on nicking your stuff, then anything (absolutely anything) that happens to them while on that mission is entirely their own responsibility.

The Policeman's Blog mentions that 'hot' burglaries (where the victim is in residence at the time) account for 13% of all burglaries in the US against 50% in the UK. And the reason for the much lower rate in the US is that the likelihood of the victim being armed is much higher, coupled with the fact that US courts are never going to sympathise with anyone getting hurt or even killed while trying to steal the property of others.

I remember many years ago in Liverpool, we were just married, we'd just got our first house and were struggling to turn it into a home. One day, BetterArf was in the upstairs back bedroom when she spotted a youth climbing over the backyard wall (it was a six-foot-high wall, so it wasn't like he just fell over it). He spotted her, and beat a hasty retreat. She called the cops, and they sent a 'Crime Prevention Officer', who told us to stick a load of broken glass on the top of the wall. And then he said 'but I never told you that.' I asked him why, and he said because an aspiring buglar might injure themselves on it, and then he might sue me.

For God's sake.