Monday, December 14, 2009

Yes, the burglar who was struck with a cricket bat so hard that it broke into three pieces deserved it, but ...

There was a story out of Britain, today, in which two brothers were sentenced to prison for severely beating a burglar who had "tied up and threatened to kill (one of the brothers) and his family." Here is the story from The Guardian:
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.

At this point in the story, I couldn't understand why the brothers were charged with any crime. In the U.S. -- and I would have presumed in Britain, too -- a person has a complete right to defend himself and his property from a criminal trespasser. The fact that these burlgars were armed with knives and holding his family hostage made them no innocent trespassers. If the brothers had shot the intruders dead in Mr. Hussain's house, he would have been a hero. But there is more to this story:
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.

A few quick observations. First, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire is 36 miles northwest of central London on the way to Oxford, which is another 27 miles north and west.

View Larger Map

Second, the burglar who was caught, Walid Salem, had "more than 50 previous convictions." Anyone with that long of a record should never be released back onto the streets. He can never be a fruitful member of society. If he's not mentally incompetent, such a person deserves to be hung after, I don't know, 15 or 20 convictions. In California, we have 3 Strikes and You're Out. If Britain had that, Salem would never have been free. However, I don't like 3 Strikes for cost purposes. It's too expensive to lock up petty criminals for decades. If they don't get the message after the first 14 convictions, just kill them and get on with it.

Third, and this is the key point of the story, Mr. Salem fled. He was caught by the brothers away from Mr. Hussain's property. At that point, the brothers had a legal obligation to call the police. But instead, they exacted a very severe (yet understandable) revenge on him. And that is why they wound up in trouble:
Salem was left with a permanent brain injury after he was struck with a cricket bat so hard that it broke into three pieces. The revenge attack was self-defence that went too far, Reading crown court was told.

It truly is no shame that Salem's head was cracked open. He deserved it. However, in a civilized society, the law has to handle such matters. Therefore, the decision to punish the brothers for punishing Salem is just in my mind.
"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."

While I agree with this judge, it seems to me if any previous judge went easy on Salem for his 50-plus convictions, the soft judge deserves to lose his job, as well.
Munir Hussain was given a 30-month sentence while his brother was jailed for 39 months after the judge decided he had not been subject to as much provocation as his brother.

I think in the U.S. it might be hard to find a jury which would have convicted the Hussain brothers in a case like this. I also think many American judges would have given a shorter sentence.

No comments: