Monday, 28 December 2009

Justice?

In a judgement so utterly out of touch with either public opinion or expectation, that it can only be a matter of time before the judge is offered a job by Kenny MacAskill, Mr Munir Hussain has been jailed for two and a half years for assaulting a burglar with a cricket bat.

Mr Hussain and his family were tied up and beaten by three knife wielding thugs. He and his brother escaped and beat up one of the robbers (who had more than 50 previous convictions). The robber received a 'supervision order'.

Politicians have expressed 'disquiet' over the case and the tories have been lambasted by the liberal left for promising to review the law where householders defend their property.

I can see the point of those who are concerned that allowing greater use of force for the public to defend against 'home invasions'. The argument being that this could lead to an escalation of violence on the part of burglars. However, burglars are invariably 'tooled up' in some way in order to break into a property in the first place, so it's an argument I don't think holds too much water.

Personally, I think it is entirely appropriate for a person defend themselves, their family and their property when someone breaks in and threatens them with violence.

I'm not sure however, that the law really appreciates or defines 'reasonable force'in these situations. In the cold light of day in the courtroom, I suspect it is incredibly difficult to express the full horror of such an event, or to articulate a persons reaction to it.

This concerns me considerably. We have all heard of the 'fight or flight' mechanism that the body uses in times of danger, but fewer people have heard of the 'adrenaline dump' that accompanies it (bear with me on this).

The adrenaline dump has several effects, the heart and breathing rates increase, the blood flows towards the major organs and the body can start to tremble.

The person develops 'tunnel vision' as they focus on the threat and hearing is impaired, sometimes to the point of being totally deaf, and events appear to occur in slow motion. Fine motor functions are lost (putting a key in a lock for example could well nigh be impossible for some) and gross motor functions become enhanced.

So where am I going with this? Well, the body also becomes temporarily dulled to pain, and crucially, self control can pretty much go out the window meaning that a person can be extremely aggressive in their response to a situation as they lose their 'self awareness'.

It is an extremely disorientating experience if you are not used to/aware of it. I have only experienced it once to a great degree, around 20 years ago, and it is difficult, if not impossible to actually describe the full effect of it, or the feeling of confusion that follows it.

Effectively, a person defending themselves, their family and home, might well commit acts of violence that they would not otherwise think themselves capable of.

So is this taken into account when cases such as Mr Hussain's are dealt with? I'd hope so, but I doubt it. If the law is changed as the tories propose (although this would not affect Scotland), then it is important to acknowledge that where a person is acting in self defence, the level of violence used might not be considered by some to be reasonable, but it might also not be entirely the defenders fault.

At the end of the day, who is the criminal, the person seeking to protect him or herself, or the person who has broken into their home to harm them and steal their possessions?

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Adrenaline dump as you called it is also known as 'Fight or Flight'
Very good description, as depending on your situation you do what you will to save yourself, or others.

Jim said...

Anon,

Thanks for your comment.

As I suspect you already know, 'in depth' knowledge of 'Fight or Flight' appears to still be somewhat restricted to the military, law enforcement and martial arts sectors.

Perhaps a greater understanding among the public, and especially the judiciary might prove benefecial to victims of violence who find themselves in court for defending themselves.

Best

Jim

Bill said...

I think a home-owner should be permitted to defend him/herself using whatever means are available and I think the gaoling of this man is totally outrageous.

I don't often advocate the justice system which exists in certain southern states of the US, but in this case I think they have got it right and we have got it badly wrong.

An uncle in Dundee was at risk of proescution for some months after successfully apprehending (and holding until the police arrived) a man whom he and my late aunt had surprised 'at his work of burglary' when they returned home from a shopping trip. The man was an habitual burglar, apparently, and many other properties in that area (a smartish one by Dundee standards) had been 'visited' by him previously. What confidence can citizens have in their police and lawmakers if this kind of 'justice' is all that is on offer?

1st Lady said...

Burglars/thugs etc should be beaten (if possible) to the point where they are no longer a risk to the family. The last thing one wants to do is to attack an intruder where they are left jolly well p*ssed off and still able to move. A good hiding is much safer for the family. I suppose a few cigarette burns to the hand just to check they are 'out' would be a bit much?

1st Lady said...

Oh.. and Happy New Year by the way.

Tactical Edge said...

Jim- the majority of burglars ARE armed with some form of weapon/tool, & if you disturb one you are more likely to face a violent assualt than not!
I personally agree with the castle doctrine that exists in certain US States, & also with the changes in the law over there removing the requirement to attempt to retreat before using force.
In a finding on the law on self defence the guidance is that allowance has to be made for the 'heat of the blood in the moment' & that evenys 'should not be weighted too finely on the scales of justice'. Unfortunately in this politically correct day & age it is frowned upon to come out on top & to hurt some poor underprivilaged heroin addict.
One of the effects of altered cortical perception that you missed is the effect of adrenaline on the fore-brain. If hormonally increased heart-rate goes above around 210bpm it is very likely that the fore-brain will switch off, removing the ability to use cognitive thought. This adds greatly to the possibility of what some of the more politically correct would think to be excessive force. Personally I think the way the criminal justice system works at the moment is massively skewed in favour of the sociopaths & chavs. I don't think anyone who has been volently attacked & abused should be expected to consider what is 'reasonable force'. Until people in power have a more realistic understanding of the realities of violent crime today, then we will see the majority of decent people having little or no faith in the justice system.