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Freedom is based on the concept of law being there to protect and ensure wellbeing for all. The credibility of the UK legal system is based upon something referred to as ‘the rule of law’, which in its most basic form, is the principle that no one is above the law. If we start to introduce degrees of ‘reasonable force’, even in self defence into our laws, then this will also introduce a lack of clarity and confusion and compromise the rule of law. How do you assess what is reasonable force? If the boundaries become blurred this could lead to inconsistency into interpretation of the law and result in people challenging and stretching the boundaries to a point where the law loses it’s balance/equity making it ineffective.
Although a burglar enters a building without permission and you would say at their own risk, it cannot be right that a building owner is in effect given permission by the law to seriously harm them. This is stepping beyond the boundaries of self-defence and actually making the building owner just as much of a criminal as the burglar! The proposed law change will mean ‘someone who is confronted by a burglar and has reason to fear for their safety, or the safety of their family, and in the heat of the moment uses force that is reasonable in the circumstances but in the cold light of day seems disproportionate, they will not be guilty of an offence’ This is actually a contradiction in terms as a judge and jury will effectively be assessing acceptable and unacceptable force for the same incident, one at the time of the incident and the other ‘in the cold light of day’!
There are some who will say that burglars deserve everything they get, and will welcome changes to the law such as those proposed by the Conservatives, and this is exactly what the politicians want people to think. The problem is however, if our laws start to support and encourage vigilantism and start to blur the boundaries of acceptable behavior then the whole legal system becomes confusing and loses its credibility. Of course burglary is a criminal offence and causes heartache and misery to many every year. Anyone faced with a burglar in their home should have a right to protect their home and defend their loved ones but even in this difficult circumstance a building owner should not be allowed to act outside of the current law. To allow this to happen would be wrong and politicians should be very mindful of making high profile sensationalist proposals that could potentially undermine the very fabric of our legal system. Our legal system is not perfect, but it has developed over many hundreds of years and it seems to work. The message to David Cameron has to be ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it’, unlike the economy of course!
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