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British criminals, beware

Putting an end to a policy of breathtaking disregard for the safety of law-abiding citizens, the U.K. has advised homeowners that they are allowed to defend themselves against criminals who break into their homes:

Homeowners who confront burglars were told by the Government yesterday that they were entitled to kill in self-defence -- and use guns and knives -- to protect their family and property.

They were reassured that they will not be prosecuted if they acted "honestly and instinctively" against intruders in the heat of the moment.
It may strike Americans as hard to believe, but in several well-publicized cases, Britons have been prosecuted and convicted for using force against intruders who threatened them in their own homes.

Quite simply, this harsh reponse to actions taken in self-defense left law-abiding Britons afraid to defend themselves. As Mark Steyn wrote back in 2000:
A few months ago, Shirley Best, owner of the Rolander Fashion boutique whose clients include the daughter of the Princess Royal, was ironing some garments when two youths broke in. They pressed the hot iron into her side and stole her watch, leaving her badly burnt. "I was frightened to defend myself," said Miss Best. "I thought if I did anything I would be arrested."
She might well have been correct, but in fact, Britons have been advised to remain passive in the face of violent assault even apart from any risk of prosecution. When two armed men attacked British financier John Monckton and his wife in their home last December, killing Monckton and puncturing his wife's lung, a university professor opined that Monckton's big mistake had been trying to protect himself and his family, instead of simply letting the intruders have their way.

Rather than defend themselves, Brits have been urged to call the police for help and "lock themselves in safely until help arrives." Of course, the very fact that we are talking about criminals who break into locked houses suggests that "locking oneself in" may not represent a foolproof solution. Also, calling the police, while generally a good idea, may not be possible where the intruder has already intruded and is threatening bodily harm.

And as Clive Coleman wrote in The Times of London, even if you can call the police from a safe place, it might not do a whole lot of good:
We returned to the street, alerted several neighbours, and waited a safe distance from the house. And we waited. We waited for about half an hour, breaking our vigil only to call the police once again. After around 40 minutes, we heard the sound of breaking glass from the house and saw a hooded figure emerge with what looked like a computer box in a bag.

...Ten minutes or so later the police arrived.
And yet despite the best efforts of their politicians and their academics, ordinary Brits have not lost the basic human urge to defend themselves. In a poll the BBC ran in late 2003, viewers of its Today show suggested "a law allowing homeowners to use 'any means' to defend their property from intruders" as the piece of legislation they would most like to see enacted. (In response to what he called a "ludicrous, brutal, unworkable blood-stained piece of legislation", Labor MP Stephen Pound contemptuously grumbled, "I can't remember who it was who said, 'The people have spoken -- the bastards.'")

Given that Britain is increasingly beset by crime (due in part to its stringent gun control laws), it is extremely heartening that law-abiding persons will be allowed to protect themselves against it.

My fearless prediction: If the government follows through on its encouraging words, criminals will soon realize that British homes are no longer easy pickings.

And crime rates will fall.




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