Thursday, October 11, 2012
British homeowners win right to use lethal force on burglars: 'Disproportionate levels of violence' backed
The long campaign to give householders the right to use maximum force against burglars will end in victory today. Chris Grayling will announce he is changing the law to allow people to use ‘disproportionate’ levels of violence to protect themselves and their families.
The Justice Secretary said it would ‘dispel doubts once and for all’ over the right to fight back against intruders. The new rules could, in some cases, allow for lethal force.
The move is designed to remove the threat of a burglary victim being arrested – let alone charged – if they use violence to drive the intruder away or stop them from advancing through their home.
Currently, householders are entitled to use only ‘reasonable’ force.
The change satisfies the demands of MPs and campaigners since Norfolk farmer Tony Martin was jailed for shooting dead a burglar in 1999. The call for action gathered momentum after the murder of financier John Monckton, who died from stab wounds in his Chelsea home in 2004.
Last month a judge warned that burglars who break into country homes can expect to be shot at by their victims if they are licensed gun holders.
There have been a string of changes to the law in recent years – including one made by Kenneth Clarke last year. But ministers have always stopped short of delivering on the right to use ‘disproportionate force’.
The decision by Mr Grayling to try to change the law as soon as possible sets down a marker that he intends to be a tough Justice Secretary.
It will mean someone who is confronted by a burglar and has reason to fear for their safety, or their family’s safety and in the heat of the moment uses force that later seems ‘disproportionate’ will not be guilty of an offence. This could include the use of lethal force. Only force which is ‘grossly’ disproportionate will not be permitted.
Mr Grayling said: ‘Being confronted by an intruder in your home is terrifying, and the public should be in no doubt that the law is on their side. That is why I am strengthening the current law. ‘Householders who act instinctively and honestly in self-defence are crime victims and should be treated that way. ‘We need to dispel doubts in this area once and for all, and I am very pleased to be delivering on the pledge that we made in Opposition.’
The demands for change began when Mr Martin was imprisoned for killing one burglar and wounding another who entered his Norfolk farm.
More recent cases suggest prosecutors and judges have been giving greater weight to the legal right of householders to use ‘reasonable force’ to defend themselves.
Last month Judge Michael Pert QC spoke out after a lawyer demanded leniency for a criminal who, he said, had been hit with a shotgun by Andy Ferrie at his home near Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, in ‘a form of summary justice’.
The judge replied: ‘If you burgle a house in the country where the householder owns a legally held shotgun, that is the chance you take. You cannot come to court and ask for a lighter sentence because of it.’
Mr Grayling’s move follows changes made by his predecessor Ken Clarke, which removed a legal requirement for householders to retreat.
Guidance for police has also been changed to encourage fewer arrests of those defending their home.
Mr Grayling will also introduce measures to make sure every community sentence contains a proper punishment.
They include a requirement to include a punitive element in every community order, a power to impose location monitoring and the removal of the £5,000 cap on compensation in the magistrates courts
Mr Grayling said: ‘We inherited a weak, “soft-option” programme from Labour, which saw offenders working only minimal hours or simply not completing their sentences. ‘Yes, we should rehabilitate. But criminals also need to receive a proper punishment.
£11,000 for a policewoman's hurt feelings: Yard must pay for taking away her sniffer dog when she fell pregnant
"Discrimination" gone mad
A policewoman who had her favourite sniffer dog taken away when she became pregnant has won more than £11,000 from Scotland Yard.
PC Katherine Keohane was so distressed after being told that one of her two dogs was to be taken that she broke down on the train home, prompting a member of the public to call police to report a crying pregnant policewoman.
She sued the Met at an employment tribunal after her dog, Nunki Pippin, was allocated to another officer when she became pregnant for the second time in less than 18 months.
PC Keohane, who still works for the Met, was awarded £9,000 for ‘injury to feelings’ and a further £2,584 for loss of overtime as a result of the decision.
She said the reallocation of Nunki Pippin would ‘greatly affect’ her role as a drugs dog-handler and would adversely affect her promotion prospects and her chances of paid overtime.
PC Keohane joined the Met’s dog support unit as a narcotics dog-handler in 2005. She was allocated a ‘proactive’ dog – one used to detect illegal drugs, firearms and cash, and to carry out searches – called Borg Warf. In 2008 she was also allocated Nunki Pippin, a ‘passive’ dog able to detect the presence of drugs by sniffing someone. Both dogs lived at home with her.
In April 2009 PC Keohane, who is married to a dog handler, told her boss she was pregnant with her first child, due that September. She was allowed to keep her two dogs during her pregnancy and maternity leave.
She returned to work part-time in February 2010. By this time the Met had changed its policy so that part-time officers would not normally be allowed to keep two dogs, but PC Keohane was still allowed to keep both of hers.
In October 2010 she told her bosses she was pregnant again and was informed that Nunki Pippin would be allocated to another handler because of a shortage of passive dogs.
Giving their reasons, her bosses noted this was ‘the second occasion within 17 months’ she had given notice of pregnancy. The reasons also referred to the dog’s inactivity for nine months due to her first pregnancy.
In October 2011, Nunki Pippin became available again and PC Keohane, who was still on maternity leave, asked if the dog could be returned to her. After being asked when she intended to return to work, her request was turned down and the dog was reallocated to another officer.
PC Keohane brought tribunal claims of, among other things, direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination.
The tribunal at Watford found in her favour on those claims, saying it was influenced by the references to her pregnancy during the decision-making process and the apparent pressure she had been put under to return to work after her second child was born.
Tribunal chairman Judge Michael Southam said the reallocation of Nunki Pippin risked affecting PC Keohane’s status as a dual dog handler and her career prospects, and meant she lost the opportunity to earn overtime on her return to work.
HuffPo Publishes Racist List
How else would you characterize a list with this title: "The 15 Most Overrated White People"?
Could you imagine a similar post about black people? Not that it is difficult to imagine who would belong on it – Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Michael Jackson, Danny Glover, Snoop Dogg, and Halle Barry all come immediately to mind as contenders for inclusion. But actually composing such a column and then getting it published would be beyond consideration – after all, such a thing would be considered utterly racist. So why the double standard here?
Australia: Conservative doubts on storing digital data
OPPOSITION communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull has given a thumbs down to the government's plan to allow greater interception and retention of private digital information.
Mr Turnbull said although he did not want to pre-empt the findings of a parliamentary inquiry, he had "very grave misgivings" about the proposal, which would give government more ability to monitor and gain access to data.
"It seems to be heading in precisely the wrong direction," he said, delivering the Alfred Deakin Lecture in Melbourne.
"As the digital age shifted us from a default position of forgetting things to one of perpetual memory, we should be restoring as far as possible people's right not just to privacy, but to be able to delete material as they have been able to do in the analogue world."
Mr Turnbull said under the government plan internet companies would be required to store parts of everyone's data, but clarity was lacking as to what would be kept.
Nor had there been an explanation of the costs and benefits of this "sweeping and intrusive new power", including what, if any, cost was ascribed "to its chilling effect on free speech".
It had not been said whether any gains in national security or law enforcement - which were asserted as justification for the changes - would be monitored and verified.
Mr Turnbull said that, as a matter of principle, "if I am lawfully entitled to burn copies of the letters I have written to you and the letters you have sent me in return, why can I not do the same to my emails?
"If I can throw my diary and my photo album in the bin, why can I not delete my Facebook page?"
Secret proposals threaten the end to a free, open internet
Comment from Australia
It is the "most important meeting you've never heard of" — a behind-closed-doors battle for control of the internet that one of the web's founders fears may "put government handcuffs on the net".
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a United Nations organisation representing 193 countries, is reviewing international agreements governing telecommunications with a view to expanding its regulatory authority over the internet.
The ITU will hold a summit in Dubai in December where member countries will negotiate a treaty (last updated 24 years ago in Melbourne) that sets out regulations on how international voice, data and video traffic is handled.
The ITU, founded in 1865 at the dawn of the telegraph, presently focuses on telecommunications networks and radio frequency allocations but some members such as Russia, China and Iran will use the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) to try to expand the treaty to include internet regulation.
Secret WCIT proposals from several stakeholders have been leaked on the website WCITLeaks.org, giving rise to fears from civil liberties groups and the technology industry that the days of a free, open internet are coming to an end.
Chris Disspain, chief executive of Australian domain name administrator auDA, said moving from the current multi-stakeholder model to a government-centric UN-run model would "stifle innovation", be non-inclusive and result in new binding regulations on member governments.
"What it could mean is a whole series of ... new regulations reached by consensus or horse trading amongst governments, with no input from the community, on such things as data retention, censorship, usage, charging models, all sorts of things," Disspain told Fairfax.
Disspain, who is a member of the UN Secretary-General's Internet Governance Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group, said he was aware of European telco proposals for the ITU advocating the move to a user-pays model for services such as email.
He said at the UN, many proposals get "nodded through because people can't be bothered objecting" and there was a risk that "active governments like China and Iran and Russia" who were pushing to control the internet "may end up winning the day".
The issues will be discussed in Canberra tomorrow and Friday at the first Australian Internet Governance Forum.
Google Australia, one of the forum's sponsors, said the internet risks becoming a "slow and stale shadow of its former self" and it would use the event "to draw attention to global threats to the web's freedom from undemocratic and totalitarian regimes, using the ITU to drive their agenda, and the risks for Australia".
Kurt Wimmer, partner with Washington law firm Covington & Burling who has consulted on internet governance issues since the 90s, touched down in Australia yesterday ahead of this week's Canberra forum.
He told Fairfax decentralised regulation of the internet had been "more of a feature than a bug" and he worries the ITU proposal will legitimise the internet censorship conducted by some countries.
"It also hurts someone in Australia who is then unable to communicate effectively with a growing number of people on the internet who are going to be fenced off by these country-by-country systems," said Wimmer, former senior vice president and general counsel for newspaper group Gannett.
Washington DC-based Tom Wheeler, who previously worked in telco policy for three decades including as CEO of the US Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), called the Dubai summit "the most important meeting you've never heard of".
"What's really afoot, however, is an effort by some nations to rebalance the internet in their favour by reinstituting telecom regulatory concepts from the last century," he said.
"It is a struggle between nation-states — and their vassals — created in an era when networks aggregated economic and political power, and the new era in which the network's distributed architecture has a disaggregating effect on both economic and political power."
He said countries such as India, South Africa and Brazil would attempt to grab a piece of the internet's revenue in the same way they can apply tariffs and other regulations to those connecting with their telephone networks. Other countries like China and Russia would seek to place controls on the freedom of the internet.
"Seemingly benign proposals to allow for regulation related to 'crime' and 'security' would grant international imprimatur to the exertion of control over internet content," he said.
"The recent sentencing of Russian punk rockers Pussy Riot is illustrative in this regard. The Putin-protesting group was sentenced to jail for being a 'crude violation of the social order', a legal construction that WCIT could permit to be extended to the internet and justified as 'within international accords'."
Vinton Cerf, Google's chief internet evangelist who has been recognised as one of the "fathers of the internet", wrote in The New York Times in May that the internet stands at a "cross roads" and any attempts to make it a more closed, controlled medium could "wreak significant social and economic damage".
"The decisions taken in Dubai in December have the potential to put government handcuffs on the net," said Cerf. "To prevent that — and keep the internet open and free for the next generations — we need to prevent a fundamental shift in how the internet is governed."
He said of the 193 member countries, 40 censor internet content (up from four in 2002), and at the conference repressive regimes had an equal voting power to everyone else. Heavy lobbying was going on in secret discussions.
Russian president Vladimir Putin said last June the goal of Russia and its allies was "establishing international control over the internet" through the ITU. Other countries including China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have also submitted proposals to the UN for international internet regulation.
It is easy to see why Google is freaked out. Wheeler said the European Telecommunications Network Operators were lobbying to regulate "over the top" internet users which he said would add new regulations to companies like Google, Netflix and others who use carrier networks.
"It is another last-ditch effort to return to the day when regulators protected carriers from the nasty realities of innovation and competition," he said.
The US, which already has a significant influence on the internet and its core infrastructure, wants to maintain the status quo. US ambassador Terry Kramer, who will head the US delegation to the ITU conference, told reporters this week that doing nothing "would not be a terrible outcome at all", arguing the internet should be left as free and open as possible.
"We need to avoid suffocating the internet space through well-meaning but overly prescriptive proposals that would seek to control content or seek to mandate routing and payment practices," he said.
"That would send the internet back to a circuit switch era that is actually passing in history."
A spokesman for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the multi-lateral forums that currently govern the internet have delivered us the "internet as we know it" and "to change the existing arrangements a strong case would need to be made".
While not specifically mentioning the ITU treaty, Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull came out in support of internet freedom in his Alfred Deakin lecture at the University of Melbourne on Monday night.
He criticised the Australian government for its attempts to control the freewheeling internet, previously with its internet filtering policy but now with proposals to store all Australians' internet usage data for two years.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.