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Government laws versus the laws of nature

Should the law offer us better protection against intruders?

Published on January 12th 2010.

Government laws versus the laws of nature

Fluffy TV presenter, M&S icon and motherly role model Myleene Klass, may not seem a likely candidate to wield a kitchen knife, but when faced with intruders in the garden of her home, that’s exactly what she did.

The judge said: “If persons were permitted to take the law into their own hands and inflict their own instant and violent punishment on an apprehended offender rather than letting justice take its course, then the rule of law and our system of criminal justice, which are the hallmarks of a civilised society, would collapse.”

She waved the knife at suspicious intruders in her garden whilst banging on the window to ward them off, whilst her baby daughter slept upstairs. Normal, instinctive, parental behaviour, many concurred.

However, Myleene’s actions received a telling off from Hertfordshire Police who said that carrying an “offensive weapon” – even in her own home – was illegal. Bemused, Klass responded, saying: “It was a scary incident but I've got no regrets as to how I reacted. I think I did what any other mother would do. This is my house and that's my daughter up there and I will do anything to protect my daughter and my family. That's what I did."

So what should she have done? According to the Crown Prosecution Service, ‘wherever possible you should call the police'. Anything you do to the intruders whilst waiting for the police is on your own head, but the courts do acknowledge the plea of self defence stating that ‘as a general rule, the more extreme the circumstances and the fear felt, the more force you can lawfully use in self-defence'. In other words, you are permitted to use reasonable force in defence of yourself or your family.

But self-defence doesn’t always wash with the courts and although rare, there are incidences every year of homeowners facing prosecution for fighting off and/or injuring or even killing intruders. Last December, Munir Hussain, a business man in Buckinghamshire, was jailed for 30 months after fighting off intruders who came into his home with knives.

Hussain, 53, was told that he would be killed and his family’s hands were tied behind their backs as the intruders beat him. He managed to escape and chased the offenders down the street, bringing one of them to the ground. He then struck him with a cricket bat, causing permanent brain injury. Reading Crown Court described his actions as ‘self-defence that went too far’ before jailing him.

The judge said: “If persons were permitted to take the law into their own hands and inflict their own instant and violent punishment on an apprehended offender rather than letting justice take its course, then the rule of law and our system of criminal justice, which are the hallmarks of a civilised society, would collapse.”

The story does evoke sympathy with a man who clearly hadn’t asked to be intruded upon and who wanted to protect his family. It is widely argued that those who deliberately break the law do not then deserve the protection of the law and that in this case the offender should accept the consequences of Mr Hussain’s instinctive reaction. However, the case also raises the issue of whether or not by taking the law into our own hands, we are in fact no better than the criminals themselves?

Many people claim to have lost faith in the British justice system, but placing ourselves as judge, jury and executioner isn’t necessarily the answer either. Our laws serve the purpose of working against what would otherwise be a Wild West society. The Law good or bad is the Law.

But should it allow more leniency toward victims? Anti-crime campaigners argue that the police need to get their priorities straight and concentrate on protecting victims rather than appeasing them for natural human reactions. Conservative leader, David Cameron has also spoken out against the police reaction to the Myleene Klass incident saying: “Sometimes the police do seem to do things that slightly fly in the face of common sense. One of the things that has gone wrong with all this red tape and form filling is that we are taking away discretion from the nurse, the teacher, the doctor, the police officer. We have got to give them back that discretion.”

We’re told to seek justice, not vengeance, although that’s not enough to stop Myleene reaching from the nearest knife, nor protective fathers from keeping a baseball bat at the bedside. After all, to them it’s better to be in prison for defending yourself and your family than in the morgue for trying not to break the law. So should the law offer us better protection against intruders to help solve such moral dilemmas?

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36 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousJanuary 12th 2010.

EDITORIALLY REMOVED: Anonymous we don't even get that joke and meanwhile don't insult people who are actually keeping writers employed as opposed to you. Tell us, in your line of business do you not charge for the services you deliver?

OJanuary 12th 2010.

While I'm all for defending yourself in your home, Hussain and three others from the house next door beat the fleeing burglar so badly that they broke a cricket bat in three pieces over his head. That's going a bit far in my opinion and I'm by no means liberal when it comes to crime and punishment. They should have bashed him a bit then phoned the old bill, not tried to kill him. Mylene should have been let off though, I'd have let her off... hot damsel in distress.

bored at workJanuary 12th 2010.

Hang on a minute. I'm not sure why, but for some reason I expect better from ManCon. Maybe it's because it says 'Voice of Manchester' at the top of the page: According to the statement made by Hertfordshire Police, they DIDN'T warn Myleene, never mind 'tell her off' for her behaviour, and yet this has widely misreported. The BBC's report, for instance, is inconsistent in itself - Myleene herself hasn't actually been quoted directly as saying anything of the sort. Is it not obvious that this has been jumped on by sensationalist writers? By regurgitating such tabloidesque methods and building this piece around what actually appears to be a non-story, do you not think you might be giving unwarranted succor to 'mnnng, bloody nanny-state!' types who will only read the first column before deciding that the police and courts are out to get them?

Bored at workJanuary 12th 2010.

But that's half my point - she hasn't actually said (going by the BBC, Indy, Telegraph and the Mail) that the police told her off for waving a knife. The only person alleging it that they did is her spokesperson aka agent/publicity hound. Doesn't take the greatest cynic in the world to see through this fluff. Btw I'm no defender of the police or the government.

snJanuary 12th 2010.

the only thing that matters from the pov of the media storm around this non-issue is if she actually was formally in trouble for her brave actions. she wasn't, she didn't get a write up or anything off the old bill (and quite right too), though perhaps she was given a friendly talking to afterward, granted. the whole 'story' is a non-issue amplified many times over by our largely absurd tabloid press, who enjoy shoe-horning narratives into their pre-moulded BRITAIN RUINED BY PC ZEALOTS template (and islamists, mouthy gays, single parents, asylum seekers etc) so they can carry on banging their drum, no matter how inaccurate or plain daft.

tomegranateJanuary 12th 2010.

Such a pity quality articles like this are going to be subscriber-only from the end of this week. What a loss.

rosieJanuary 12th 2010.

since when has Richard Littlejohn been writing for Mancon?

HowDoJanuary 12th 2010.

Bored at work, why did you expect better? This site regurgitates stories from the MEN on a daily basis, calling it 'City News in 250 Words'. Iromic really, seeing as though they continually poke fun at the MEN

johnthebriefJanuary 12th 2010.

Can we speed up the subscription lock out please, so that we can stop reading people bitching about it?

James TaylorJanuary 12th 2010.

What gets me is that people keep coming on here defending the MEN as though it's smaller than Mancon which is not the case. If the MEN people don't like then why not poke fun back. Largely because they're so dull they couldn't do it. And I tell you something that's good on here, at least they keep directly critical rants on which is creditable.

Me againJanuary 12th 2010.

And further to the last comments, read some of the other articles on the homepage, the food review, the film review of the Road. Not every piece will work.

tomegranateJanuary 12th 2010.

James... I'm afraid that's not actually the case. Reasonable criticisms I've made have been deleted before with explanation. The editorial interventions in people's objectionable comments only give the impression that they always 'keep directly critical rants on'. Sad but true.

James TaylorJanuary 12th 2010.

Tomegranate: a question. Why read Mancon given your view of it, and why read it so much that you revisited it again after posting your comment?

Jonathan Schofield - editorJanuary 12th 2010.

Tomegranate. You're wrong. I remove offensive comments to individuals and excessively rude comments to people who are paying for our membership scheme. Any comments about the site, the quality of writing and so on I keep on. Now please email me directly on jonathans@planetconfidential if you want to discuss further rather than bothering the readers with your bizarre grievance against the site.

lucky-chrisJanuary 12th 2010.

I like Mancon for the large part, but I don't regard the site as beyond criticism, johnthebrief. Don't be such a sycophant, and let people bitch if they want to.

tomegranateJanuary 12th 2010.

Just for balance, I love a lot of the articles on here, I have posted plenty of praise in the past. But because of the way the site is going, I am less inclined to show my appreciation of the good bits. Call it affectionate criticism. I would keep this private as you ask but I'm not happy for you publicy imply I'm a liar (why would I make it up?) and a saddo (I'll call myself that thanks). Cheers.

FiJanuary 12th 2010.

Agree with tomegranate on this one. You don't edit comments? Cast your mind back to the first Mark Addy feature. As for not being rude to paying customers, I take it you mean it's OK for the likes of 'johnthebrief' to be rude to non-paying customers - whether he likes it or not, this site is still free to view for a couple more days and who's to say those 'bitching' or not toeing the line, are not already signed-up members. Come on JS, close the membership offer now - jtb has called for action

AnonymousJanuary 12th 2010.

Loving this. http://www.love-manchester.com

AnonymousJanuary 12th 2010.


AnonymousJanuary 12th 2010.

Please elaborate anon. What's so funny?

AnonymousJanuary 12th 2010.

If I need to tell you, that's even funnier!

AnonymousJanuary 12th 2010.

What's up, don't you like competition?

The Lampshade with AttitudeJanuary 12th 2010.

Unbelievable. Either Mancon are the world's greatest fools for leaving these idiots to rant freely OR they are so comfortable with their space that they don't give a damn OR they are masochists. Some of you people, including you Tomegranite, I doubt would say boo to a bloomin' goose if you had to stand up and declare yourself. Good luck with the new site Mancon, my advice is to stop wearing such a hairy shirt and block these idiots. Even the great Harold Evans at the height of his powers at The Times was selective in the letters pages. It's allowed.

AnonymousJanuary 12th 2010.

So anyone who disagrees with the new ManCon business model is an idiot eh? It's called opinion. Would you 'stand up and declare' yourself? Of course not that's why you hide behind a daft name like everyone else on here

PhilboJanuary 12th 2010.

Anon, the Lampshade isn't calling you an idiot for disagreeing. He is calling you an idiot for posting ridiculous rants such as “ What's up, don't you like competition? ” on this site. If you are affiliated with the site you have mentioned, then way-to-go to alienate the audience you are so desperately trying to court. And as for your comment of hiding behind a daft name... Are you really called anonymous????

AnonymousJanuary 12th 2010.

Er no, the site is nowt to do with me. Are you really called Philbo?

PhilboJanuary 12th 2010.

I'm really called Phil, and it's a nickname I've had for years. Maybe you should change your posting name to troll...

HowDoJanuary 12th 2010.

Blimey, there's been a lot of very defensive people on this site over the last few days

PhilboJanuary 12th 2010.

I only became defensive because of the number of posts attacking the site over the past few days. It seems kinda funny that prior to the notice of have 'friends' and 'heroes' in November, there were few posts saying that there were 'non-stories' on the site. Sarcastic articles are part of what makes ManCon enjoyable. If the posters don't like the idea of paying for the site now, that's there perogative, but it is no reason to knock the site now. It's their bed, and they've got to lie in it. I've got faith in Johnathan and Mark that this is going to be a huge success, and that paying for Hero level membership will be worth it.

HowDon'tJanuary 12th 2010.

Blimey, there have been a lot of very offensive people on this site in the last few days

Jonathan Schofield - editorJanuary 12th 2010.

Lampshade you're right this is too much. New rules - as the new site is about to launch. Attacking the writing is fine on a given article, attacking the site is no longer allowed. Being so liberal seems to be working against us - even the Beeb doesn't allow that, and they live off a tax. So, reluctantly, all such attacks on Confidential as a site will be removed, just as they are for personal attacks. We're trying our best to develop here something which speaks with authority and wit, and gets it right and gets it wrong sometimes. But as long as we're trying to talk up to people and not talk down to people then we'll be sort of happy. One thing we'll never do is treat the readers like idiots. We're ambitious, the endgame is to be a magazine, a newsbreaker, a guidebook and even a listings site for your and our city. At the same time we're trying to make Manchester Confidential pay - for the price of half a cinema ticket a month for Friends - so we can achieve this. Now what's wrong with that? Do those who criticise the membership model provide services to their clients without payment? If so how do they pay the bills? Stick with us - and a genuine apology to the thousands of readers who've had to put up with the moaners today.

PhilboJanuary 12th 2010.

Well said Johnathan. Maybe this should go on the front page tomorrow as a standalone article... without a comment bit at the bottom. Otherwise it will all start again.

FiJanuary 12th 2010.

Jonathan, whilst I appreciate your response, do you not realise that you are as 'defensive' as the rest? We can no longer criticise the site? Why? It's not perfect you know. I just sense an air of panic and desperation in all these rants that attack anyone who dare question your new proposals, whether it be from you and Gordo or from a die-hard ManCon ranter. With the likes of jtb telling you to close the membership offer and Philbo suggesting tomorrow's lead story, you have no need to employ the new writers you crave. This site has given me endless pleasure for a couple of years and a few nods and winks in the direction of where to eat, drink and be entertained. However, although I wish you genuine luck and sucess in your new venture, I won't be subscribing. Thank you all at Manchester Confidential

oh dear FiJanuary 12th 2010.

It has given you endless pleasure but you want something for nothing. How lovely of you.

Deary me FiJanuary 12th 2010.

what a shallow person you are. It's not just this site; every site across the world has realised that the business model of 'free' and reliance on advertising doesn't work. The Times, through to parts of the Guardian, The Daily Telegraph to Time Out, The Financial Times to Whizz Comics and Private eye. The Metro has shut down local news and doesn't do restaurant reviews, The MEN has sacked half its work force and their food writers, leaving them with the weakest food writing bunch north of Watford. Each and everyone has decided that the time has come to get fair pay for hard work. Now, let me come out of the closet. I am a writer and journalist. Why the hell should I ply my trade to ingrates like you for nothing? As to this site, it is head and shoulders above any other F&B site in the UK if not Europe and I am hard pushed to offer you one in the States. It gives your voice a platform, I have had some great nights out on their recomendations and there is a great community feel to it. It has won many awards and every pulisher in the North West is as jealous as hell of it. Which is why most fair minded readers defend it. Not because they are worried (I know Garner and I am privvy to their subs so far; it's a startling figure when they haven't even launched, it shows the trust people have in him) but they love the site. Schofield won't like me saying this to you Fi as he is shockingly Liberal at times, but why don't you go and fcuk off and read the Morning Star online? Thats staying free I think.

lucky-chrisJanuary 12th 2010.

Like I said, I like ManCon. I like what it offers and I don't mind the odd bit of rubbish, whether I subscribe or not. It's these Chris Crockers that bug me more. If Mr Schofield can take a bit of criticism on the chin then what's your deal? And why bring all negativity down to the paid model? If I saw a crap article in a magazine I paid for, it'd be just as crap in a free one. It's the moaners about the moaners that I'm moaning about. Keep up the good, bad, AND indifferent work ManCon.

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