Andrew Dismore today blocked a potentially unpleasant new bill in Parliament, by heroically speaking for three hours. The debate overran and no vote could be made.
The bill, proposed by a Tory MP, would have strengthened the rights of householders and shopkeepers to defend themselves and their property from burglars.
This Daily Mail trope de jour has been floating around for years, ever since Tony Martin became a hero for shooting a teenager in the back and leaving him to bleed to death. Jolly well done, Mr Martin. You must be very proud. As I may have mentioned before, my sister used to visit remote farms run by nutcases. She’s very slight, and bundled up in her Environment Agency fleecy parka and wellies, she very much resembles an undersized teenage boy. Such farms were marked with a red dot on the EA’s map, and she would have to phone the police for an escort before she visited. You see, people like Tony Martin don’t bother to check whether the intruder on their land is an EA employee with a warrant and a legal right to be there, or an adolescent miscreant, and this is the sort of person that is being canonised by the right wing.
The law as it currently stands is perfectly adequate. You are allowed to use “reasonable force” against an intruder, and there has recently been clarification on what “reasonable” means. Only a psychopath who values his TV above a human life would want more than this.
Besides, another recent case shows how foolish it is to tackle burglars. John Monkton was murdered, and his wife seriously injured, when Mr Monkton tried to tackle two intruders in his home. As a householder, you have no idea of the burglar’s state of mind. In the Monkton case, the attempted robbery was drug-related – the intruders were nervous and agitated, and one was armed. How could you know in advance whether your burglar was safe to tackle? You don’t. He could have a gun or a knife, or could just be faster, stronger and more desperate than you. Or he might be a kid making a getaway.
Unless you are directly threatened (which is fortunately unlikely), the best thing to do is let the burglars take what they want and then claim it back on the insurance, and then improve your home security. No material possession is more valuable than a life. The pathetic right-wing posturings of the Mail and the Tories make me feel queasy – such frothing about violating property and protecting one’s wife and children belongs in the 1900s, not the 2000s.