Friday, January 14, 2005


CHARLES CLARKE has ruled out giving householders more freedom to fight back against burglars. The Home Secretary defied Britain's two most senior police officers and victims' groups who had called for tougher laws. In his first big decision since his appointment last month, Mr Clarke asserted his independence from Tony Blair, who last month told MPs he was minded to change or clarify the law. Mr Clarke said that after discussions with chief constables and prosecutors it had been concluded that the existing law allowing "reasonable force" to be used against intruders was "sound". The Home Secretary said there would be a publicity campaign to ensure that people understood the law and could protect themselves. "I believe people have the right to defend themselves and I do believe in that old adage `An Englishman's home is his castle.' I believe our law provides that," he said.

There has been confusion in Whitehall, with ministers appearing at odds with each other over how to respond to the campaign to give householders more rights to tackle burglars.Mr Blair told MPs that he was minded to change or clarify the law - days after Lord Falconer of Thoroton, QC, the Lord Chancellor, said he did not want a change in the law. Senior law officers are understood to have been reluctant to change the law on the basis of highly publicised incidents. An informal check by the Crown Prosecution Service found that only 11 people had been prosecuted for violence against an intruder during a burglary in 15 years. Five had been convicted.

Sir John Stevens, the retiring Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and his successor Sir Ian Blair both wanted the law toughened. Last night Scotland Yard was keeping silent.

The Norfolk farmer Tony Martin's conviction for killing a burglar sparked the campaign to tilt the law in favour of householders who defend themselves during burglaries. His conviction for murder, subsequently downgraded to manslaughter, was followed by several violent burglaries in which homeowners died.

More here. Wayne Smallman has some good comments.


One impressive Nov. 2 vote has been overlooked by the media. By 85 percent to 15 percent, a ballot initiative in Massachusetts approved equal legal and physical custody of children whose parents are divorced. That ballot initiative is nonbinding, but it certainly is indicative of the will of the people and the growing recognition that children are best off under the care of both parents. The initiative came out of the grass roots following a massive signature-gathering effort during the summer. The proposition appeared on the ballot as follows:

Shall the State Representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation requiring that in all separation and divorce proceedings involving minor children, the courts shall uphold the fundamental rights of both parents to the shared physical and legal custody of their children and the children's right to maximize their time with each parent, so far as is practical, unless one parent is found unfit or the parents agree otherwise, subject to the requirements of existing child support and abuse prevention laws?

This initiative was sponsored by a fathers' rights group whose members believe fathers are systematically discriminated against by family courts, which nearly always award physical custody to the mother even when the father has committed no fault. Family courts typically deny faultless fathers their equal parental rights even when state law appears to require equal custody.

California Family Law, for example, states (Sec. 3010(a)): "The mother ... and the father ... are equally entitled to the custody of the child." The only specific examples the statute gives for denying custody to a parent are child abuse, false accusations of child abuse, abuse of someone else with whom the person has a domestic relationship, substance abuse, and conviction of certain felonies.

Laws about custody rights vary from state to state, and only about a dozen states specify a legal presumption in favor of equal custody. Iowa's new law says that if a court denies a request for joint physical custody, the judge must explain why it's not in the best interest of the child.

Whether or not a state law mandates equal rights to both parents, family courts appear instead to rely on a concept called "the best interest of the child." Because that notion is wholly subjective, an indefinable rule with no standards or accountability, in practice it rests on the personal whim or bias of the family court.

Family court judges find unwelcome the task of rendering a judicial decision detached from the law and from any due-process finding of fault, so they call on court-appointed psychologists to provide opinions of which parent should have custody. But the issue before the court is not psychological (except in rare cases of mental illness), and the psychologist's credentials no more qualify him to determine what is "the best interest of the child" than the judge - or the father or mother.

The social ills caused by the lack of a paternal role model and discipline dispenser in the home have been voluminously reported. We've been led to believe that the plight of fatherless children is caused by husbands walking out on their wives, fathers abandoning their children and deadbeat dads.

That might be a primary cause in the matriarchal welfare system, but no evidence supports a claim that large numbers of non-welfare fathers are voluntarily abandoning their children. Thousands, perhaps millions, of middle-class children are growing up fatherless because family courts have deprived them of fathers.

More here

No comments: