Why do the British Police seem bent on causing further trauma to victims of crime? What is the origin of a ridiculous policy of arresting victims of crime who acted in self-defence?
I ask this because of two cases that have been in the media recently: one a fortnight ago, another yesterday.
In the first case, a man asleep at home with his family was woken by the sound of intruders. Going to investigate he was confronted by burglars armed with a machete. A desperate struggle ensued in which – happily not the reverse – he killed an intruder and the others fled. By all accounts, the householder was an ordinary family man with a steady job and no criminal record. The (late) armed burglar had a string of priors and was in fact on bail for another crime at the time.
Nevertheless, the householder was arrested for murder and held in custody for several days, and it was a month before (it seems with some reluctance), the police dropped the charges on the orders of the CPS.
Yesterday, a 72 year old shopkeeper and his 60 year old friend stood up to armed robbers. Once again, in the fight one of the robbers died. The shopkeeper is described affectionately by his neighbours as a friendly man who has run his shop for 40 years.
Nevertheless, he too is was arrested and is being held in custody charged with murder.
Now, I’m not arguing that if on the surface it looks like self defence, no investigation should be held. But what I am questioning is whether it is necessary to arrest and hold in custody a victim of crime. Every violent death should trigger an inquest, but surely it is not only sensible but moral and compassionate to only arrest the person if the inquiry raises doubts?
Surely Occam’s Razor should apply unless facts emerge to question the obvious? Common sense dictates that in 99/100 cases, if it looks like a law-abiding person was defending themselves against a career-criminal, that is what it most likely will turn out to be.
A criminal who breaks into someone’s home or business – particularly if they do so armed – deserves whatever ‘misadventure’ comes their way. Law-abiding citizens who have the misfortune to interrupt these scoundrels in their activities don’t deserve to be treated as if they were the criminals themselves.
So why on earth traumatise a person who has had to fight for his or her life, and distress their family and their friends, by arresting them and locking them up?
Is it beyond our abilities to imagine a procedure where they’re warned that an inquest will have to take place, asking for their full co-operation and reminding them not to leave the jurisdiction before the inquest is concluded? What’s more, with the presumption of innocence, should they not be offered victim counselling?
Instead, they are taken away from the people able to offer them comfort and support.
It is simply outrageous that acting in self-defence in the UK gets you locked up for days, possibly weeks, your family stressed to the max, and your name dragged through the papers.
Where is justice?