Waking up, or entering your home to find a gang of potentially violent burglars would strike terror into every one of us. For thousands every year, this is a fear which becomes reality. In this situation, how many of us would first think ‘what am I legally obliged to do?’ I’m betting that for most, the first and really sole concern would be the safety of us and our families. This has been an issue which has had just about every home owner in Britain talking this week, as so many victims of this terrifying crime have been made the criminals.
Myleene Klass, a much loved family TV presenter was first to hit the news as the most unlikely of offenders. In a moment of panic, the young mother grabbed a kitchen knife as she saw two teenagers in her garden attempting to break into her property. She was alone in her kitchen with her 2 year old child asleep upstairs. She was later warned by police that brandishing the knife as a weapon was illegal, even in her own home.
Putting ourselves in this situation, who could have reacted in any other way? When our family and our homes are in danger are we expected to abide by this absurd law, or are we entitled to defend ourselves? These criminals have already broken the law, and infringed our rights as property owners, do we not then have the right to protect ourselves from them or should we hide, hope for the best and wait for the police to turn up?
A more serious example of this issue also came to our attention this week, when family man Munir Hussain was released from jail having been sentenced to 30 months imprisonment for attacking an intruder with a cricket bat. Despite a judge in this case commending Mr Hussain for his courage when an intruder threatened to kill his family, the High Wycombe business man was then sent to prison for the violent act. Mr Hussain was thought to have been ‘unreasonable’ in his defence, chasing the criminal down the road before beating him.
A householder is attacked in their own home by a violent burglar every 30 minutes. Many have suggested that if more people reacted in a way similar to Mr Hussain this would be a far smaller statistic. While others claim that it is barbaric to take the law into our own hands, it is shocking to look at the alternative.
Looking at the punishment granted by police to the Hussain family’s attacker we see nothing whatsoever. Walid Salem was said to be unfit for trial for this crime, and was released, while Mr Hussain the man who had done nothing to provoke the incident was kept in prison, away from his distraught family. Despite being apparently unfit for trial, Mr Salem has since been returned to custody for further suspected crimes.
This is not an isolated incident. In 1999 Tony Martin the Norfolk farmer who shot dead a burglar, Fred Barras, was charged with murder. He has since appealed, reducing his sentence and was released early.
Another recent case is that of Omari Roberts, 23, who has been charged with murder after he stabbed to death a burglar in his mother’s home. Again, Mr Roberts was said to have used excessive force – so what is excessive, what is the force suitable to be used when we think that our family may be in danger?
These cases keep occurring, and to be truthful I do not think many can say that in the same circumstances we would ever think twice about the legal implications of our actions. As a mother, a sister, a wife, a girlfriend, a daughter, we would do anything to protect those that we love, and no legislation will ever cause anyone to react differently to this natural instinct.
By Samantha Herbert