New Have a Go Laws

So, why are we having a new look at the laws on self-defense, citizens arrests and so on?

But Mr Straw is understood to have decided new laws were necessary after he was involved in four "have-a go" incidents, which included chasing and restraining muggers near his south London home.

"I know from personal experience that you have all of a milli-second to make the judgment about whether to intervene," he will say. "In such a situation, the law on self-defence works much better than most people think; but not as well as it could or should.

Ahhh. Because one of the ruling elite has had personal experience of the current mess. That the personal is political we all know but to find that only the personal is political is something of a shock. So, given that we have a series of areas where the law needs changing let\’s set up a series of events that will force said ruling elite to sort out the problematic areas of the law, shall we?

Ben Bradshaw to be prosecuted for the use of cannabis. Ruth Kelly\’s children to be taken by social workers to meet adoption targets: the court, of course, meeting in secret. All Ministers, of course, subjected to tax audits on their perks of office (and, more importantly, the use of Grace and Favour housing when out of office).

Anyone got a few more bright ideas?

14 comments on “New Have a Go Laws

  1. “A householder or “have a go hero” will not be prosecuted if he injures or even kills an intruder or mugger provided “reasonable force” is used. He must show he feared immediate attack, had no escape and the response must be proportionate to the threat.”

    Ah, so the same as now then.

    Still, I suppose the right-wing press and the Martin-acolytes have distorted people’s perception of what the law really is so much that “changing” it (to be the same as it already is but with different words) might actually make hoi polloi feel better befended…

  2. Long, long ago self-dense was covered by common law. However, in the 60’s some bright spark decided to codify the laws on self-defense – we have been living with the consequences ever since.

  3. John b sounds like the classical “liberal who has not yet been mugged”.

    We’ll cut you some slack, mate, until your turn comes, then you’ll be welcome to join the real world.

  4. I’ve been mugged, as it happens. The point is not that I don’t think self-defence should be allowed, but that *it already bloody is*.

    If you spot a burglar in your house, you can pick up a cosh or a knife or a legally-held gun, and you can tell him to get out or face the conesequences. Indeed, if you fear that giving a warning would put your life in danger (say, because he’s brandishing a knife already, or because you’re 5ft0 and he’s Hulk Hogan), you can attack him pre-emptively. All of these things are perfectly legal under existing law.

    What you can’t do, and what you still wouldn’t be able to do under Mr Straw’s proposed law, is to shoot him if you’re *already* scared him with your weapon and he’s already running away.

    But the tabloid reporting of the Tony Martin case has confused and scared a great many people into believing that lethal force in self-defence is illegal, when it simply isn’t.

  5. John B, the law may be phrased in such a way as to seem reasonable but the way it is enforced is anything but. The majority of law-abiding citizens fear that trying to do something in such an incident is giving the police the excuse to arrest you. Everytime I’ve spoken to anyone about the problems they’ve faced, someone has always said, “you have to be careful” in reference to how the police will respond towards you after. These are people as worried about the law as the villian. This is absurd. The law needs to be rephrased to bias it further in defence of the victim.

    Consider this: someone mugs you, takes your wallet, turns to run away, takes a step, you smack them as hard as you can in the back of their head, they fall unconcious. Is this reasonable? In my book, absolutely. In the law’s eyes….dunno. Until it’s clear what is reasonable in the eye’s of the law and it aligns with the perspective of those on the front-end of crime then the law is poor protection indeed.

  6. “The majority of law-abiding citizens fear that trying to do something in such an incident is giving the police the excuse to arrest you.”

    Yes, but that’s because the tabloids routinely lie that that is the case, not because the police actually *will*. Because they don’t.

    I’m not totally sure about your mugger example though: it seems to me that you’re inflicting GBH on him in order to get your wallet back, not in self-defence, and I’m not sure that /should/ be treated as proportionate.

    Of course, if you’re worried that he’ll get a friend to come back with him so they can both beat you up, you’re in the clear to do whatever’s necessary to stop him [and if you’re into revenge and are willing to bend the truth slightly, you could always suggest this to the copper when he comes along – even if it wasn’t your actual primary motivation – it’s still a ‘reasonable belief’].

  7. So in your system, there is nothing I can do to the mugger if he turns away. If I punch him lightly, he might turn around and hit me harder. If I rugby tackle him, he might hit his head and render the same result. Having started the situation, he decides that it is now over and can walk away with all the legal rights of any other person on the street. Clean-up rates on muggings are so low that there is approaching zero chance of me seeing my property again or seeing him in jail for this crime. Thus he is free to commit crimes such as this with impugnity. Criminals get to have their cake and eat it. No wonder you think the tabloids are making it all up.

    Tim adds: There was a time when one would shout “Stop Thief”. His not stopping would therefore be resisting an entirely legal citizen’s arrest. Victorian times, of couse, but firing one’s gun at a fleeing burglar was entirely legal: as long as one had indeed shouted “Stop thief” first.

  8. @ PT: it’s not “my system”, it’s English law! And no, you’re allowed to use reasonable force to perform a citizen’s arrest, which is lower than the threshold for self-defence. Rugby tackling him and accidentally knocking him out is kosher; deliberately wacking him over the head with an iron bar probably isn’t.

    @ Tim: “Victorian times, of couse, but firing one’s gun at a fleeing burglar was entirely legal: as long as one had indeed shouted “Stop thief” first.” – really? Got a cite?

    Tim adds: Sadly, no cite. Remembered from a Penguin history of criminal London back then.

  9. I covered this at some length two years ago.

    Earlier this week the subject of self-defence came up, triggered by Anne McIntosh MP’s private member’s bill intended to give more rights to householders confronted by burglars.
    There was some discussion on Samizdata, which was frankly not of very high quality, unless you compare it with that to be found, for example, here.
    Pulling together the points made opposing the bill, we find:
    The law already allows citizens to take very strong measures in self-defence, without fear of prosecution. Allowing citizens to take very strong measures in self-defence would be a disaster, and the end of civilisation as we know it. They can’t both be right.

    It turns out john b is right: the law of self-defence (and citizen’s arrest) are pretty much right, and the highly-publicised cases that appear to show otherwise are officials getting it wrong. Unfortunately, as in any other area, stupid or vindictive officials have ample capacity to make your life miserable even when the law is on your side.

  10. John B, you offered an interpretation of the law, e.g. do him for GBH, that was the system I referred to. Or are you arguing that your interpretation is the law? If so then you are the definition of reasonable, which I would contest. Not that I’m holding myself up to be that either.

    AMcguinn, one can disagree with how a law is advertised and enacted without disagreeing with its wording. Law is more than what is written, it is what is seen.

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