The front page headline of today's Telegraph really bothers me. "You have the right to shoot dead a burglar" This is strong stuff. We should not be encouraged to shoot people dead, unless we are at war, or have no choice.
I was happy with the first two paragraphs. 'Home owners and others acting in self defence were yesterday given the legal right to fight back against burglars and muggers free from fear of prosecution' and 'They will be able to use force against criminals who break into their homes or attack them in the street without worrying that 'heat of the moment' misjudgements could land them in court.' I reckon this is sensible, even if there will inevitably be grey areas where difficult judgements will have to be made.
But the aim of our legal system must be to reduce the level of violence and criminality. I remember the massive support there was for Tony Martin, the Norfolk farmer who was sentenced to imprisonment for manslaughter after shooting a burglar. Like many others, my first instinct was to be on Mr Martin's side, but I finished up not being at all sure. I don't think we want burglars who are running away to be killed, and we don't want homeowners to be lying in wait with guns either. The paragraph in today's report which made me think 'Steady on' was 'Home owners would be able to stab or shoot a burglar if confronted or to tackle them and use force to detain them until police arrive. Muggers could be legally punched and beaten in the street, or have their own weapons used against them.' Well yes, within reason.
I don't know whether there has been a significant change in the law, or whether its another Gordon Brown gimmick, using strong language to describe what is already legal anyway. What worries me is reading a front page of a national newspaer which could well lead to a more violent society, rather than the opposite. I know. Its the wimpish side of my politics coming through again. But there we are. That's what I think.