Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Self defence or malicious revenge? Jail for brothers who beat burglar with bat.

When I first read of this case I thought it was a miscarriage of justice:

A businessman who fought off knife-wielding burglars who were threatening to kill his family was jailed for 30 months in a case that has reignited the debate on how far householders can go to protect themselves and their property.

Munir Hussain, 53, discovered three masked men in his house when his family returned from their local mosque during Ramadan in September last year.

The burglars tied up and threatened to kill Hussain and his family but a teenage son managed to escape and alert Hussain's brother, Tokeer.

The atrocious behaviour of the burglars, by tying up and threatening to kill his family, would make most of us enraged and think of what we would want to do in similar circumstances.

However, it seems clear that what they did do - when they apprehended one of the fleeing burglars - did actually go far too far.

The intruders fled when help arrived at the house in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, but the brothers chased and caught one, Walid Salem, a criminal with more than 50 previous convictions. He was then subjected to what Judge John Reddihough described as a "dreadful, violent attack" by the Hussain brothers.

Salem was left with a permanent brain injury after he was struck with a cricket bat so hard that it broke into three pieces.

I understand the rage that the family must have been feeling, and the sense of violation at what had been done to them, but I think the judge is expressing leniency when he sentenced the perpetrators to a mere thirty months. In different circumstances, that sentencing would have been much more severe.

And I agree with the judges reasoning.
"This case is a tragedy for you and your families," the judge told Munir Hussain. "Sadly, I have no doubt that my public duty requires me to impose immediate prison sentences of some length upon you. This is in order to reflect the serious consequences of your violent acts and intent and to make it absolutely clear that, whatever the circumstances, persons cannot take the law into their own hands, or carry out revenge attacks upon a person who has offended them."

"It may be that some members of the public, or media commentators, will assert that Salem deserved what happened to him at the hands of you and the two others involved, and that you should not have been prosecuted and need not be punished," the judge added.

"However, if persons were permitted to … inflict their own instant and violent punishment on an apprehended offender rather than letting justice take its course, then the rule of law and our system of criminal justice, which are the hallmarks of a civilised society, would collapse."

Instant justice carried out by the victims would end civilised society as we know it.

So, whilst I understand the anger of the victims in this case, I also understand why what they did was simply unacceptable.

The Daily Mail will no doubt run with this one for days.

Click here for full article.

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