This is the official blog of ex-Sgt Ellie Bloggs. I was a real live police constable then sergeant for twelve years, on the real live front line of England. I'm now a real live non-police person. All the facts I recount are true, and are not secrets. If they don't want me blogging about it, they shouldn't do it. PS If you don't pay tax, you don't (or didn't) pay my salary.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Upside Down Law

Believe it or not, I'm not a great fan of new self-defence laws. I think the original legislation and common law, stating that a person may use reasonable force to defend themselves, is pretty satisfactory.

I don't even fully object to the sentence handed out to businessman Munir Hussain, who bludgeoned a burglar with a metal pole, fracturing his skull. Mr Hussain had been subjected to an ordeal, but where he went wrong was gathering a posse, chasing the offender outside, and then continuing to beat him until he was almost dead. Worse still, he made up an array of lies but was found out by independent witnesses. He was tried by jury, who if they had felt enough sympathy with his plight could have acquitted him. Following a guilty verdict the judge had little choice but to jail him. As we keep saying on these blogs, GBH with Intent is a serious crime that should attract jail. And what isn't revealed in the attached article is whether Mr Hussain had previous convictions for violence. I sympathise with his situation, but surely a few kicks would have done the job and they could have then detained the burglar for the police.

What baffles me, and most sane members of the British public, is how Mr Hussain can face just over a year in prison when the man who broke into his house and threatened his family at knifepoint, walks free with a "supervision" order.

When you look at the two sentences alongside, the mind boggles. Judge John Reddihough may well feel it his public duty to jail Munir Hussain, to make it clear that retribution of that nature is not acceptable. Why did the judge in Walid Salem's trial not feel a similar public duty, to punish those who commit aggravated burglaries of such a severe nature? This was a man with fifty-four previous convictions. Who, after all, is the greater threat to society in the long-term? And who should we really be trying to deter?

Why, despite uproar after uproar, do unrepentent criminals walk out of our courts laughing on a daily basis? In light of it all, perhaps 30 months is a decent trade-off against giving an armed burglar a punishment he won't laugh at.

'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.


Anonymous Ben said...

Well said.

15 December, 2009 09:20

Blogger Hogday said...

Isn't fair play, balanced justice and respect for others a little bit of what being British is supposed to be about? If so, I'm living in a foreign land.

15 December, 2009 10:06

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps Munir Hussain knew the paltry sentence the kidnapper would get and so exercised his own form of justice (he had just returned from Ramadan prayers) perhaps such justice is Islamic style justice: let's go with it...

And as for the jury...they should definitely have found him "not guilty". Perhaps they were badly directed by the judge, but at least he got a jury trial.

15 December, 2009 11:42

Anonymous Brownie said...

I think the Mr. Hussain has received the right amount of time, as you have said a good kicking should suffice.

As for the knife wielding robber, he has got his come upance and rightly so, he wont be doing it again which we should all be thankful for :)


15 December, 2009 13:22

Blogger Jamougha said...

Salim 'walked free' because he's not fit to plead; he's severely brain damaged and will spend the rest of his life in a secure institution drooling on himself.

15 December, 2009 19:25

Blogger staghounds said...

I suspect Mr. Selim's unfitness to plead won't keep him home nights.

Bu plenty of criminals like (or worse than) Mr. Selim, who do what (or worse than) he did, DO walk away without serving time.

I hate to say it, but maybe the idea of people taking the law into their hands is far more frightening to the official law takinghands than "ordinary" crime is.

Competition, don't you know.

15 December, 2009 19:57

Blogger Crime Analyst said...

We had small supermarket on one of our sink estates that was getting hit on a regular basis. The windows had been done so often, grills destroyed in ram raids. The owner lived above the shop and had been injured previously trying to defend his shop. The insurance companies finally refused to cover him, so every hit pushed him closer to closing up. No one would buy the place so he was trapped.

In sheer desperation, he moved his bed into the front upstairs flat and took his shotgun (licensed) to bed with him, he said in fear of being attacked again by the drug crazed scrotes.

Sure enough, one night he heard the plate glass window smash. At his wits end he sat on the bed with the shotgun. He could hear the toe rags downstairs rifling his stock but there was no suggestion this time they would come upstairs.

He poked his head out of the upstairs window, and as the blokes (not juveniles) climbed out of the window below and loaded up their nicked transit, as they were about to get in the van he fired both barrels up the arse of one of them.

You can guess the rest no doubt.

While everyone had loads of sympathy for him, CID had to nick him and charged him with wounding etc. However strong we might sympathise, in this blokes case, the scrotes were "egressing" not entering so presented no immediate threat to his safety and the force was deemed to be excessive.

He got two years, the burglars got 6 months despite having stacks of precons.

An old sweat of a DS commented that if you're gonna do 'em, make sure it's on their front not the back, otherwise when the well heeled defence brief arrives, we all know what his advice will be.

If the 11,500 foreign nationals occupying 14% of the prison occupancy were returned to their country of origin, it would relieve the taxpayer of a £350million burden, go a large way to resolving the overcrowding problem and perhaps encourage judges to impose tougher sentences on real criminals.

Not that it would have helped Munir Hussain, but at least complete justice would seen to be done. Best not hold our breath waiting for that one.

15 December, 2009 22:38

Anonymous Outed said...

When the sentences available are diluted to the point where "The Public" stop caring about the formal Criminal Justice System a few bad things start to happen. People stop wanting to give evidence or formally report crimes because the grief isn't worth the result. Even if we bring the offender to justice, the system in place provides neither rehabilitation, respite or retribution. The sales of pitchforks and tar thus begin to rise slightly. We are not replaced by the angry mob just yet and perhaps Munir Hussain is an aberation rather than a bellweather......

15 December, 2009 22:51

Blogger blueknight said...

The problem was that the 'beating' occurred away from the scene after the offender was chased. In the cold light of day the assault was unjustified as the threat against the householder had ceased because the intruder was fleeing.
Two points
1. More account should been taken of the fact that the householder's adrenaline levels must have been very high and the burglary and subsequent attack were all part of one continuing incident.The heat of the chase and all that.
2. Does the burglar really have 50 previous convictions? That tells you all you need to know about the break down of law and order in Britain today.

16 December, 2009 01:15

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If hes drooling and in a secure institution now, hes probably not that different than before the burglary, serves him right family at knife point, i'd have killed him.....

16 December, 2009 14:39

Anonymous Anonymous said...

he will never do 30 months

16 December, 2009 20:33

Anonymous anaconda said...

Munir Hussain should have done a better job, then got rid of the body.

16 December, 2009 20:35

Blogger Nationalist said...

Perhaps burglars walk free because our courts prefer to concentrate on more important matters. If that Tzipi Livni ever sets foot on English soil she'll be banged up toot-sweet and put through the wringer just like we did with that General Pinochet. There's no time for petty-fogging little stabbists when major international criminals are at large in the world.

17 December, 2009 09:34

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Break into my home, threaten me and my loved ones with a knife and he wouldn't have had the chance to run away. It would be either the pickaxe handle or my dog.

If you break into someone's home and threaten them with a knife, if you get battered then you get what you deserve.

17 December, 2009 12:48

Anonymous Tina Trent said...

Well-put, indeed. I do not know where it is worse anymore, the same everywhere I suppose: in America, the judges simply ignore recidivist laws that are sitting right there on the books. I've heard of people getting first-time offender sentences several times in a row. One frightening recidivist went free by telling the judge he was a wedding-dress designer -- showed her another person's website, and she was so busy cooing over his talent that she forgot to check his . . . criminal record. He walked out of court, bludgeoned a respected cancer researcher to death, and, curiously, was so unafraid of consequences that he went back to the scene of the crime again.

The judge also suffered no consequences, though she had clearly violated the law herself in sentencing him so, an extreme form of malpractice that cost an innocent woman her life. Letting recidivists walk is no different from telling them they have the right to commit crime. Or keep that job, the one with the black robes.

17 December, 2009 15:19

Anonymous Julian said...

Munir would have been out of his mind with grief, frustration and rage which should have been taken into account; the judge may well have directed the jury very badly in this case. Even after a guilty verdict he could still have given a suspended sentence.

If as you advise, he had simply detained his attacker then they would be out of jail in two months, ready to do the same again to him or another family.

Hopefully Munir's actions will prevent this man from ever threatening another family again, which is more than the Police or the Justice system would have done.

17 December, 2009 18:16

Blogger Joker said...

'Break into my home, threaten me and my loved ones with a knife and he wouldn't have had the chance to run away. It would be either the pickaxe handle or my dog.'

Staffie? I guess it would be a toss-up as to who got to your 'loved ones' first then, the rare intruder or the ever present dog.

It might sometimes seem as if 'The Law' aren't up to the job, so 'the law' should be taken into our own hands, but just down the road you have a father being told by his tearful child that some bully just hit him, and going outside and twatting *the wrong kid*. The police might be becoming a bit of a joke, but it's unwise to think that we could do any better. Like watching a child playing a video game, and seeing just what they need to do from the sofa, but once you decide to show them by taking over the controller, it isn't so simple...

18 December, 2009 09:17

Blogger Kimpatsu said...

I think the original legislation and common law, stating that a person may use reasonable force to defend themselves, is pretty satisfactory.

And what, exactly, do you define as "reasonable force"? The problem is that the phrase is so catch-all as to be meaningless. If you want a genuine definition of reasonable force, you should consult the genuine martial arts community. I've been a Shorinji Kenshi for 25 years and sat on the Martial Arts Commission. I have more training in self defence than any beat cop, and certainly more than the lawyers who draft these laws, or th politicians who enact them... and yet never once has our orgqanisation been consulted in the drafting of such laws, despite the recommendation by the Japanese ambassador that you consult us. Care to explain why? After all, don't you consult doctors for medical advice and engineers for bridge-building advice?
Oh, sorry. Remember Professor David Nutt? I guess that answers my own question...

19 December, 2009 04:22

Anonymous Simon said...

I believe that the thing here is to keep the subjects in line. The burglar is part of keeping the subjects in line since he is part of keeping them frightened and thus keeping them focused on that fear rather than on taking part of the political process in the community and country. As such a vital cog in the machinery of control the burglar cannot be locked away for long. The common subject on the other hand should be made to know that he has no rights in any way and that if he tries to protect himself and his family he will pay dearly. Thus he wont dare to protect himself against government either. The subject must know their place for the rulers to be able to rule in comfort.

19 December, 2009 09:47

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Kimpatsu, police officers have far more experience in self-defence than any martial arts expert, because we do it for real. The whole point of the term "reasonable" is that it is what any normal member of the public would think is reasonable. It is worded that way because we have trial by jury in this country, and the idea is that the jury determines whether it was reasonable. The WHOLE POINT of British law is not to be too specific, to allow for those situations where it is a matter of commonsense and judgment. The problem with the new laws coming in every day at the moment is that they are too specific and leave no room for compassion or commonsense.

As someone comments above, we don't know exactly how the judge directed the jury in the Munir Hussain case, but they were free to return a not-guilty plea if they felt it was reasonable.

19 December, 2009 11:20

Anonymous Mac said...

A really well put and balanced post. For my money the law on reasonable force as written left no choice other than a guilty verdict and if the injuries were really that bad (brain damage, drooling?) then 30 months with only half served means the judge would have had some sympathy.

The sentence on the burglar is a joke but if it really is because of the severity of his injuries then the 'punishment' dished out by Mr Munir probably did more to make the 2 outstanding burglars think twice about ever coming near the family again than anything a British judge would have done. In that respect if I was Mr Munir I might well think it a price worth paying.

The trouble for society comes when everyone else thinks vigilante justice is worth it. It will only be prevented when the public have trust in the 'system' to dish out proper punishments.

19 December, 2009 16:58

Blogger Crime Analyst said...

Ellie, When compared against some of the media tripe that has been written on this case, your article is among the most informed and objective.

We can all sympathise with Mr Hussain. Finding intruders violating our home, none of us can say for certain how we would react in the moment.

The law as it stands allows proportionate reasonable force to protect our persons and our property. When the threat is running away, it diminishes the validity of force. As you rightly point out, it should be for the courts to decide if the force used was reasonable.

The jury had alittle alternative based on the circumstances. The sentence imposed seems harsh, but in light of the injuries (deserved or not) it would have taken a more courageous judge to impose less.

Simon Heffer in the Telegraph came in for some right stick for his article :-

He says "Sending the Hussains to prison was a disgrace. Having been convicted, I am sure they had to be punished: but would not a suspended sentence, or probation, have sufficed?"

Mac is bang on with this. When the average Joe in the street applies vigilante justice as a matter of course, the judicial system will really be on its arse.

Whilst prisons remain at capacity, and sentencing clearly affected by available prison space, I can't see the justice system improving without dramatics reform and investment.

Mr Hussain's sentence wouldn't have attracted anywhere near the attention if there wasn't such a lack of justice for the burglar. Can't find any sympathy for hims whatsoever. He wouldn't have sustained the injuries if he hadn't got caught screwing.

Before he sustained injury, he was in the act of aggravated burglary. Regardless of mental state, he should have been sentenced accordingly.

19 December, 2009 17:38

Anonymous Sandy Jamieson said...

The thief who has failed to offer the names of his two accomplices had a record of 50 convictions. WTF was he doing on our streets instead of in jail. But we really owe a debt of gratitude to Mr.Hussein since the little scrote will not do a 51st.
If we're honest with ourselves, Mr.Hussein did what every one of us who have been a victim of crime really wants to to to the perpetrator.

19 December, 2009 22:38

Blogger Crime Analyst said...

Apparently, a Conservative government would consider strengthening the rights of householders who tackle burglars, the shadow home secretary Chris Grayling has said.

Mr Grayling said he wanted to see whether "grossly disproportionate" force would be the right measure, instead. "We've long debated and argued within the Conservative party that there should be a higher threshold built around the concept of disproportionate force...

"I want to go back and look at the law again... I do want the law to be absolutely clear for the householder to say, right, if something happens to you, the law will protect you if you defend your interests, and at the moment, many people feel that's not certain."

Instead of the measure being whether or not the force used was reasonable, they would have to replace this with "was it grossly disproportionate".

They would have to be pretty specific and detailed at definition stage to prevent this being abused. I can just see it now, some scrote kicks off your wing mirror, remonstrate with him, he looks at you arrogantly (which puts you in mortal fear of your life ...) so you take a car jack from the boot and stove his head in until his grey matter is all over the pavement ..... would that be grossly disproportionate?

Cynical I know, but that apart, I guess a key factor would still be, whether the offender still represented a threat at the time the retaliation takes place. Is it "after the event" and the villain is escaping, where the force used might be disproportionate?

The measure of force applicable may be changed, but they still have to determine first if force was used or abused in each case.

The Hussain family speaks out about the sentence here :-

20 December, 2009 14:49

Blogger AJ said...

When the burglar was assaulted he no longer represented any immediate danger so self defense is not as issue. I would actually have expected a longer sentence for a vicious attack that left the victim with brain damage and could have easily have turned into a murder, although I guess that some lieniency is justified under the circumstances.

As far as the other sentence is concerned, I would expect a robbery of that nature to attract a significant jail term, but maybe the judge felt that being brain damaged for life was already a sufficient punishment in this case.

23 December, 2009 10:15

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