Saturday, September 13, 2008

UK: Global warming (but not self-defense) justifies breaking law

A recent headline from the UK reads, "Jury decides that threat of global warming justifies breaking the law". The full story is here, but the crux is of course in the first three paragraphs:

"The threat of global warming is so great that campaigners were justified in causing more than £35,000 worth of damage to a coal-fired power station, a jury decided yesterday. In a verdict that will have shocked ministers and energy companies the jury at Maidstone Crown Court cleared six Greenpeace activists of criminal damage.

"Jurors accepted defence arguments that the six had a 'lawful excuse' to damage property at Kingsnorth power station in Kent to prevent even greater damage caused by climate change. The defence of 'lawful excuse' under the Criminal Damage Act 1971 allows damage to be caused to property to prevent even greater damage – such as breaking down the door of a burning house to tackle a fire.

"The not-guilty verdict, delivered after two days and greeted with cheers in the courtroom, raises the stakes for the most pressing issue on Britain's green agenda and could encourage further direct action."

When I saw this headline (and even before I had read the article) I was immediately stunned and angry. That's because in the UK, protection of one's life and property is not a good enough excuse to posses or use firearms or any other weapon!

There's plenty of proof, in case you need any.

In her excellent article "Gun Control's Twisted Outcome", Reason magazine's Joyce Lee Malcolm gives a few disturbing examples of why Britain continues to wither and fade away over the years:

  • "In 1973 a young man running on a road at night was stopped by the police and found to be carrying a length of steel, a cycle chain, and a metal clock weight. He explained that a gang of youths had been after him. At his hearing it was found he had been threatened and had previously notified the police. The justices agreed he had a valid reason to carry the weapons. Indeed, 16 days later he was attacked and beaten so badly he was hospitalized. But the prosecutor appealed the ruling, and the appellate judges insisted that carrying a weapon must be related to an imminent and immediate threat. They sent the case back to the lower court with directions to convict.
  • "In 1987 two men assaulted Eric Butler, a 56-year-old British Petroleum executive, in a London subway car, trying to strangle him and smashing his head against the door. No one came to his aid. He later testified, "My air supply was being cut off, my eyes became blurred, and I feared for my life." In desperation he unsheathed an ornamental sword blade in his walking stick and slashed at one of his attackers, stabbing the man in the stomach. The assailants were charged with wounding. Butler was tried and convicted of carrying an offensive weapon.
  • "In 1994 an English homeowner, armed with a toy gun, managed to detain two burglars who had broken into his house while he called the police. When the officers arrived, they arrested the homeowner for using an imitation gun to threaten or intimidate. In a similar incident the following year, when an elderly woman fired a toy cap pistol to drive off a group of youths who were threatening her, she was arrested for putting someone in fear. Now the police are pressing Parliament to make imitation guns illegal.
  • "In 1999 Tony Martin, a 55-year-old Norfolk farmer living alone in a shabby farmhouse, awakened to the sound of breaking glass as two burglars, both with long criminal records, burst into his home. He had been robbed six times before, and his village, like 70 percent of rural English communities, had no police presence. He sneaked downstairs with a shotgun and shot at the intruders. Martin received life in prison for killing one burglar, 10 years for wounding the second, and a year for having an unregistered shotgun. The wounded burglar, having served 18 months of a three-year sentence, is now free and has been granted £5,000 of legal assistance to sue Martin."
If you're not as angry as I am now, then we probably wouldn't get along very well. I'd be civil to you of course, but I'd be disappointed in the way you felt.

Gun control is and always will be a slippery slope, and this is where it inevitably leads.


All right, I've been a bit distracted lately and I missed this, which is a huge step in the right direction, rare in the UK these days:

Richard Edwards and Christopher Hope
The Daily Telegraph (UK)
July 16, 2008

"Home owners and others acting in self-defence were yesterday given the legal right for the first time to fight back against burglars and muggers free from fear of prosecution."

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