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False arrest of victims

by D.J. Webb

As libertarians will be well aware, English Common Law confirms the right of Englishmen to use arms in their self-defence. I am one of those who would not accept the legality of purported laws to strip us of this right, but in any case, we have not been stripped of this right, at least in terms of statute law. The 1688 Bill of Rights, which has not been repealed and has been affirmed by higher courts as being a major constitutional law that cannot be impliedly repealed (i.e., can only be repealed by express language clearly repealing it), specifies our right to use weapons in our own defence.

It seems that on the ground the behaviour of the police overrides any Acts of Parliament or even the Common Law. We read today of householders in Melton Mowbray who shot at burglars who had broken into the cottage. The burglars have been arrested for “aggravated burglary”, but the householders have been arrested on suspicion of GBH!

A Conservative minister has indicated that the police should prosecute the burglars, not the householders defending themselves. The burglary was being undertaken around midnight. The house has been burgled several times previously, and none of the men injuried have life-threatening injuries. And the shotgun used was legally held.

On what grounds have the householders been arrested? Self-defence using a weapon, lawful under English Common Law and the Bill of Rights, cannot give rise to charges of GBH. Even if the burglars had been shot dead, no legitimate charges would arise – unless the police had reasonable grounds to suspect that the killings were not in self-defence. That would be for the police to show, and not for the householders to disprove in advance. The bar for proving that minor injuries inflicted by householders in their own homes on burglars in the dead of night were not self-defence must be placed very high indeed. After all, this was a home invasion.

It seems to me the police involved should be sued for false arrest. As far as I know, false arrest is considered by a civil wrong. I would appreciate more information on this point — as far as I am concerned it ought to be one of the more serious crimes.

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