If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Sunday, 24 January 2010


This a little behind the curve, but ... I have been following the case of Munir Hussain with interest. This, you may recall, was the man who was held hostage, along with his wife and family, in his own home by burglars. He managed to escape, and with his brother chased the fleeing burglars. When they caught up with them, they gave one a good hiding with a cricket bat, giving the burglar permanent brain injury as a result. Mr Hussain was given a 30-month prison sentence, and there was an outcry similar to that around the Tony Martin case of 1999. The brother, who we may assume carried out the majority of the attack, was sentenced to 39 months.

This week, the case went to appeal, and Mr Justice Judge (isn't that good? almost as good as Cocklecarrot) reduced his sentence to 12 months, suspended for two years: effectively, freed on appeal. Great, but disturbing.

The great bit first. Mr Hussain was imprisoned in his own home by a career criminal. His wife and children had been tied up, and he must have had grave concerns about what would happen to them if the burglars decided to see what they could get away with. Fortunately, he escaped, contacted his brother, and chased the burglars, who by this time had given up and run away. They caught one of them and gave him a sound pasting. Sounds good - the law-abiding man gets his revenge, and there is one fewer criminal to terrorise some other innocent family.

The disturbing bit is that the attack was not committed on Mr Hussain's property. The burglars were chased up the street and attacked far from Mr Hussain's home. That suggests a punishment beating rather than self-defence while in fear of one's life. Secondly, a number or weapons, including a golf club and a cricket bat, were used in the attack, where there is no suggestion that the burglars were armed in any way. Thirdly, the burglar sustained serious head injuries, sufficient to prevent him appearing at the trial, although not enough to render him incapable of further criminal acts, it would appear. The law allows the householder to use reasonable force to defend his home and family from intruders, but in this case there is a big question mark over how far Mr Hussain's actions stand the test of reasonableness or proportionality.

This is not a clear-cut case, no matter how the Daily Mail spins it.

For myself, I am a believer in the rule of law. If a householder has to resort to violence to defend himself or apprehend a criminal intent on stealing his property, then as long as the force used is reasonable, I have no problem with it. I have a feeling that Mr Hussain went beyond that simple definition when he chased the burglar down the street and attacked him. But there are other ways of looking at it. The burglar set out with the intention of breaking the law. Mr Hussain had been to the mosque, and no thought of criminality was in his mind, until he found the intruder in his house. The mens rea suggests that the burglar was intent on criminality, whereas Mr Hussain was innocent of any such intention until provoked.

I would tend to side with Mr Hussain for this reason: the law is there for everyone, and its function is to protect everyone. If I deliberately break the law, it is hardly consistent for me to then claim that the people I was offending against should adhere to the laws of the land in their acts of defence. Once you enter someone else's property with criminal intent, as far as I am concerned you have signed away your rights as a citizen. If you get a good hiding for your trouble, well - you shouldn't have been in someone else's house, should you? I would go further: if you rig up trip wires linked to a shotgun, or you electrify certain metal objects to harm intruders, well why shouldn't you? Unless someone is deliberately breaking the law, these measures cannot harm them. And if you break the law, frankly, it's your lookout.

I think Mr Judge Justice, or whatever he is called, has got it about right. Mr Hussain did go too far, but he was substantially justified in what he did. A conviction, but with no penalty, is about right.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment is free, according to C P Scott, so go for it. Word verification is turned off for the time being. Play nicely.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...