A subject of relevance for all regardless of any martial arts participation. A recent story on Radio Five Live detailed how two blokes chased another, beat him with a cricket bat and a metal pole, rendering permanent brain damage; the cricket bat actually broke in three pieces! The accused, two brothers, were sent to jail after being found guilty of GBH with intent. An open and shut case, fair enough, but was it?
The ‘victim’ in this instance had been involved in a burglary where an entire family had been tied up and threatened with death as their house was ransacked. During the burglary the teenage son escaped and raised the alarm. An uncle, living two doors away, and the father managed to catch one burglar with the outcome being the two brothers received jail sentances while the perpetrator, unfit to plead to charges of false imprisonment, was merely given a supervision order.
Reports in The Sun and The Times suggest this is a terrible injustice, however, Hussein and his brother were not acting in self-defence. They left the scene of the crime, chased and caught Walid Salem and brutally assaulted him. It’s easy to be outraged, the preceding crime is horrible and can leads us to think Walid Salem deserved everything he got. He may well have deserved a kicking, but I have to agree with the Judge who said that people cannot be allowed to take the law into their own hands, inflciting instant, violent retribution IS outside of the law.
On the back of this case the Tories are trying to get political advantage by suggesting they will put the right to defend property back in the hands of the vicitm. However, this is nonsense, in Britain we ARE allowed to protect ourselves and our property, but we are not allowed to take things too far, being restricted to ‘reasonable force’. Chasing a perpetrator with weapons and beating him/her to a pulp is obviously beyond reasonable. The Hussein brothers could have overpowered Salem and simply held him until the Police arrived, thereby acting within the law.
A reasoned article in the Telegraph argues succinctly that the judge was correct in his assertion and cites instances when even fatal outcomes of self-defence are not taken to prosecution. A Hungarian business man caused a neck injury to an intruder which resulted in death, but this was shown to be an outcome of reasonable force in self-defence.
There are those that will suggest that Salem got what he deserved and the Husseins should be set free, they do have right to Appeal. While the deifinition of reasonable force can be open to interpretation, we cannot allow vigilante style retribution to persist. If it is allowed, where will it stop, Charles Bronson in Death Wish?
The Death Wish reference is an overreaction but last week I saw a short report in the Independent outlining the number of lynchings in Guatamala. It showed a picture of a woman bloodied on the street, doused in petrol after bus passengers accused her of involvement in an armed robbery. Local media claimed 219 lynchings had occurred in 2009 with 45 of them being fatal, a quick google search provides evidence of the prevalence of Guatamalan lynchings, indicating that such ‘justice’ is on the increase. This may be a large extrapolation from the Husseins case but allowing this type of incident to go unpunished could potentially lead to an environment similar to that supporting the para-Military knee-capping justice in the 70’s. The Law provides the right to trial for everyone accused of a crime, vigilantes and lynch mobs do not.
Aside from this case, there are implications for those practising martial arts. Don’t over do it if you catch a criminal! Obviously, we have to train for worst case scenario but its important to ensure we don’t end up as the accused if involved in such a scenario.