In the early hours of Monday morning, 56 year-old Patrick Walsh, of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Greater Manchester, awoke to find a burglar in his flat. Now, as we all know, the correct, police-sanctioned, method of dealing with burglars is to offer them a cup of tea, and point them in the direction of your more valuable possessions. You should then call the police, who will arrive late, if at all, take down the details of the offence, and then do nothing whatsoever. Thus, society and the rule of law endure.
Unfortunately, Mr Walsh, who is clearly a very wicked man, had the nerve to do something that the police specifically tell homeowners not to do: he confronted the criminal. There was a struggle, and the criminal fell from the window of Mr Walsh's third floor flat, suffering severe head injuries. I imagine that readers can guess what happened next...
Yes, that's right: after calling the police, Mr Walsh found himself arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm with intent, an offence which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The police, who are supposed to protect the law-abiding public against criminal lowlife, chose to treat as the villain of the piece a man whose only "crime" was to wish to defend his property, a right of paramount importance in a free society.
There are very few people who are prepared to openly deny the principle of a right to self-defence. Even though liberals may well want it completely taken away, they will not admit it. However, what we heard a lot of in the case of Tony Martin, was that, while one has a right to defend oneself and one's property, Mr Martin, in shooting a burglar, had gone over-the-top in exercising this right. Perhaps the same will be said of Mr Walsh.
The law does indeed require that any force used in self-defence be reasonable. However, as far as I am concerned, all force used against an active aggressor is reasonable. Only when the aggressor has actually stopped moving, does the use of force even potentially become unreasonable. And, in any event, I fail to see how Mr Walsh's action can be ajudged as anything less than reasonable. Was he supposed to stop grappling with the burglar when they got to within a few feet of the window, lest someone got hurt? Sadly, it's not that easy to just stop in the middle of a fight. Had he done so, it is probable that he would be the one lying in intensive care tonight. Perhaps the police would prefer that. Certainly, it seems that they would prefer to see Mr Walsh deprived of his property, and the burglar off scot free, than to see the burglar suffer for his criminality, and the law-abiding Mr Walsh keep his property.
Whatever the police may think, I applaud Mr Walsh, and hope that any charges that the police may threaten him with collapse quicker than David Cameron's poll ratings. Personally, if I caught a burglar in my house, then I hope I would do the decent thing and confront him, and I hope that I'd kill him. Whether I'd subsequently inform the police, would be quite another matter. It seems to me that homeowners who do kill or seriously injure burglars might be rather better off if they just quietly disposed of the body without telling anyone...
Update: It seems that the burglar has died of his injuries since this post was written. Could we now be looking at another Tony Martin-style murder trial, perhaps?
Update (2): It has now been revealed that the dead burglar, Terence Sandiford, was a habitual criminal who was actually on bail awaiting trial for going equipped to commit a burglary when he broke into Mr Walsh's flat.