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Repeal laws preventing the public defending themselves and others

Comment 12th July 2010

Members of the public have a common law duty and right not only to defend themselves and others, to prevent loss or damage to property and to arrest offenders, but also to prevent a breach of the peace.

However, laws such as Section 1 of the "Prevention of Crime Act 1953", which make it an offence to be in possession of an offensive weapon in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, prevent us from having the necessary tools to protect ourselves and others. These defensive tools, such as batons and irritant sprays, should be permitted for persons with no violent crime convictions and carrying them to protect oneself and others should be a "reasonable excuse". However the police will not accept this, so this law (and any other related ones) should be repealed and replaced with one that allows law-abiding citizens to defend themselves and others against criminals.

These defensive tools are only what the police are allowed to carry to protect themselves, but members of the public are expected to walk around defenseless and in no position to assist their fellow citizens. The police do their best but obviously they can't be everywhere at once and much of the time all they can do is catch the offender after he's disposed of the rent money or wages he's stolen from the victim, or left them with life-threatening and changing injuries, if not brain-damaged or dead. If the public were allowed to carry defensive weapons, they would have a chance at repelling such assaults and other people would be more inclined to come to their assistance. On too many occasions the police have refused or been unable to come to the assistance of someone in time and it is unacceptable that in such situations the innocent person under attack by armed criminals is rendered defenseless by the state.

I'm not suggesting people should be allowed to carry knives and guns and I'm open to the idea of having some sort of training program (perhaps run by some of the soon to be made redundant police officers) leading to a license before a person is allowed to carry defensive items, although the principle should be that all adults have the right to own and carry such items, unless banned by reason of a violent crime history or serious mental health problems.

This would in no way jeopardize the state, as it will still have trained firearms officers and the army to defend itself against insurrection, but will give citizens a chance to stand up to thugs and defend themselves and others, rather than having to scurry about with their their heads down, hoping that a thug doesn't decide to single them out, and then hope that the police might turn up in time to prevent them being left permanently disfigured, brain-damaged or dead.

There are too many cases of citizens being persecuted by the authorities for defending themselves: for example, Kenneth Blight, 51, who stabbed a 19-year old who was threatening him with an axe in his garden, was given a two-year suspended sentence but the Attorney General sought to have the sentence increased. Instead the court halved the sentence, although Mr Blight did spend 4.5 months on remand.

And Omari Roberts, 23, who stabbed a 17-year old burglar who rushed him in his mother's home, who spent 7 months on remand before the CPS decided to charge him with murder and wounding with intent, based on the allegations of the other, 14-year old, burglar. Mr Roberts then spent another six months on remand, so imprisoned for 13 months in total, before the CPS dropped the case because the 14-year old confessed he'd lied that he'd been
chased down the street.

And James Killen, 18, who stabbed a 46 year-old man who was stabbing his mother (who subsequently died from her injuries) in their home, arrested on suspicion of murder. Thankfully he was not charged, but why should citizens who use quite legal and obviously necessary force, in this case after seeing his mother being subjected to a brutal and horrific attack, be subjected to the additional and quite intolerable stress of being arrested and treated as a criminal.

Despite only legally being allowed to use the same reasonable force as the public, police officers who kill suspects, whether accidentally or by design, even when lethal-force was quite unwarranted, are rarely subjected to the stress of being arrested and treated as the criminal and locked up for over a year, but are merely questioned after being allowed to confer and compare notes with colleagues. If this is sufficient to ascertain the truth, then it should be the same procedure used for citizens where there is reason to believe that they are the victim and were merely defending themselves or others.

If citizens were permitted to own defensive items, they may have been able to use them in some of the above cases, rather than having no choice but to reach for the nearest kitchen knife to defend themselves against an attacker who they have to assume is willing to kill them and thus they have to stop them before they have a chance to do so, only to be persecuted for using a lethal option, when the less-than-lethal options available to the police are denied them.

Why does this matter?

Because any law that leaves law-abiding citizens unable to defend themselves or others, to protect property or prevent a breach of the peace, is quite indefensible, particularly when citizens are simultaneously under a duty to do so.

The law as it stands clearly does not stop criminals possessing weapons or attacking citizens and it is clearly ridiculous to expect that the police will always be in the right place to be able to protect citizens from attack, so by preventing citizens from posessing and carrying defensive tools we are expecting them to put up with being at the mercy of criminals and persecuted by the state if they dare to use the only items available to them, IE kitchen knives, to protect themselves.

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