Sunday, August 26, 2007

Self-defence is a right, not a wrong…

Self-defence is a right, not a wrong…
Even in New Zealand.

Law enforcement is attracting increasing criticism each time they investigate a citizen's armed response to a crime.

By de Andréa

A Morrinsville New Zealand farmer fired two shotgun blasts into the air to subdue two suspected petrol thieves, whom he forced to lie down until police arrived. Police are reported to be considering laying charges against the farmer. The farmer should be thankful that he does not live in the U.K or even in the U.S. where he would likely spend sometime in jail while the perp's go free and then with the aid of the government the perp's could sue the farmer for sociological damage or some such nonsense.

The court of public opinion cannot be allowed to determine guilt or innocence. Each case has to be examined objectively to determine whether a defender's response has been appropriate. While summary justice might appeal, vigilantism merely adds one kind of lawlessness to another so say the Morrinsville police.

Nevertheless, the public has good reason to suspect the worst when a victim is being investigated and subsequently arrested after taking action to defend his life and or his property.
Seared into recent memory are the two failed prosecutions of a Northland farmer Paul McIntyre, who shot a thief on his property in October 2002.

Mr. McIntyre was acquitted in the Kaikohe District Court, first on a charge of shooting and injuring a man with reckless disregard for the safety of others, then, of discharging a shotgun without reasonable cause in a manner likely to endanger the safety of others. The cost of defending the prosecutions brought him to financial ruin in a case that provoked widespread sympathy, as well as deep indignation.

More recently was the unsuccessful prosecution of an Auckland gun-shop owner, Greg Carvell. Eleven months previously, he shot a machete-wielding intruder who had demanded guns and threatened his staff. Two JPs threw out the case that had caused a judge sentencing the intruder to wonder at the fact that Mr. Carvell had defended himself only to be charged by police.

Wise counsel says anyone faced with an intruder should lie low and call the police. For country folk, isolated and often far from help, reality dictates they must act themselves if criminals are to be defeated.

While police fear that a tolerance of armed responses could lead to escalation, with the likelihood that thieves, will routinely arm themselves for potential shoot-outs, the opposite has proved to be true in the U.S. When citizens are armed, criminals fear that potential victims may shoot them, and go elsewhere. Farmers and other vulnerable folk rightly insist that their security comes first. Many resent the fact that the advice to "do nothing" is in fact, government-imposed helplessness.

One of the points that I find interesting is that the police define self-defense as vigilantism. Obviously, the police are not aware that self-defence is a natural law and therefore is not outside of the law as it can be in the case of vigilantism.

As far as armed responses leading to escalation of criminal attacks with guns, the stats show that the opposite is true, with criminals going where citizens are not likely to be armed.

The first duty of the state is to protect its citizens, their families and their property from violence. If it cannot, then at least it should acknowledge the entitlement of every citizen to fight back in his or her own defence.

When police respond to a citizen's armed defence by raising the prospect of charges, they offend a sense of natural justice and increase public suspicion that again, it is the victim who gets the worse deal. Consider the case of farmer Tony Martin in the U.K. or as in the case of officers Ramos and Compean two U.S. Border Guards.

If a person defending his property, life or country is in such grave risk of prosecution for breaking the law, it implies a moral equivalence that considers him as bad as the thieves, rapists and murderers who come calling.

Rightly or wrongly, the public perceives such police arrests as enthusiasm by the coercive arm of the state to punish citizens for its own failures. Moreover, when the court system takes over, it ignores the further injustices that are created by the testing of a legal principle. All of which does little to maintain respect for either the police or for the courts.

THE BOTTOM LINE: It simply amazes me that government and law enforcement have such a difficult time recognizing the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. When I was young I identified them by what color hat they were wearing, but I have grown up sense then.

There has to be a more realistic way of evaluating a decision of forceful defence. A good way to start would be to recognize the natural right of every person to defend his or her own life, instead of making him or her, victims of injustice as well as victims of a crime.

“Police, unlike God, are not omni present. God, unlike police, expect people to exercise a certain amount of personal responsibility”.

de Andréa.

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