The London Daily Telegraph has been running a cynical and dishonest campaign in the UK to give people the right to defend themselves against burglars. It’s dishonest because, as I have detailed here and here, people in the UK already have the right to defend themselves against burglars or anyone else who threatens them. The Daily Telegraph‘s campaign is nothing more than a beat up to create an issue to attack the government with. The truly disgraceful thing about their scare campaign is that it could convince people that self-defence is unlawful and frighten them out of defending themselves against an attacker, resulting in injury or even death of a crime victim. I am disgusted.
One of the features of the campaign is the use of deceitful and fabricated statistics and quotes. Let’s look at some examples: Dominic Lawson writes:
Remember Robert Symonds? It is the name of the 45-year-old Putney teacher who six weeks ago was stabbed to death in the hall of his home by a burglar. His body was found by his wife while their two children slept upstairs.
It was as a result of that incident that this newspaper launched our “right to fight back” campaign, which calls for the public to be given an unqualified right to self defence against intruders in their own homes. The point that struck me so forcibly at the time was not just the horror of Mr Symonds’s death, but the fact that had Mr Symonds picked up a kitchen knife before encountering the burglar, and managed to get blows in first, then he would now, as the law stands, be facing a murder trial.
It’s telling when they can’t provide real cases where people have been put on trial for murder after killing a burglar in self-defence and instead present hypothetical cases. Here is a real case that the Telegraph will never mention because it destroys their campaign: John Lambert (no relation), who killed a burglar in self defence and was not put on trial for murder or even prosecuted. I have collected more examples here.
Lawson then states:
But the doubling in recorded violent crime over the past eight years is a domestic apocalypse now.
Notice how Lawson was careful to write “recorded violent crime”? That’s because violent crime has been falling for the past eight years. But rather than mention this, Lawson uses the fact that the police have improved their record keeping to dishonestly create the impression that crime has increased.
Next, we have Charles Laurence, who writes:
[In 1987] the Oklahoma state government passed legislation that became known as the Make My Day Law, named for the celebrated scene in the Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry film. … “Our law says you can use any force, including deadly force, to defend your home.”
It has been an unqualified success. Since the Make My Day Law came into force, burglary has declined by almost half in Oklahoma. In 1987, there were 58,333 cases; in 2000, just 31,661.
But as Eugene Volokh points out, burglary also declined by almost half in the rest of the US as well, so there is no reason to believe that the law deterred burglars.
And then there is Mark Steyn, who writes:
But the trouble is that this kind of burglary – the kind most likely to go “wrong”—is now the norm in Britain. In America, it’s called a “hot” burglary—a burglary that takes place when the homeowners are present—or a “home invasion”, which is a much more accurate term. Just over 10 per cent of US burglaries are “hot” burglaries, and in my part of the world it’s statistically insignificant: there is virtually zero chance of a New Hampshire home being broken into while the family are present. But in England and Wales it’s more than 50 per cent and climbing. Which is hardly surprising given the police’s petty, well-publicised pursuit of those citizens who have the impertinence to resist criminals.
Now, it is true that in the US, about 10% of burglaries are “hot”, while in England and Wales it is more like 50%, but Steyn has added his own fabricated statistics. The part about the rate being zero in New Hampshire was made up by Steyn, as was the part about the hot burglary rate in England going up. Steyn doesn’t even bother to give a single example of the police pursuing citizens who resist criminals, he just asserts it again and again. I am concerned that Steyn’s misinformation might frighten people out of defending themselves. And, no, “home invasion” is not a more accurate term. A “home invasion” is a domestic robbery, not a “hot” burglary.
In New Hampshire, there are few burglaries because there’s a high rate of gun ownership.
Not so. In fact, in the US, higher gun ownership tends to lead to more burglaries. (Presumably because guns are valuable loot.)
And then there is Joyce Lee Malcolm. She produces a whole list of false claims. She uses fabricated quotes to claim, falsely, that the right to self defence has been practically eliminated from British law. And she writes:
Crime has rocketed. A UN study in 2002 of 18 developed countries placed England and Wales at the top of the Western world’s crime league.
Now Malcolm is well aware that the British Crime Survey shows that crime has declined, so she is deliberately misleading her readers here.
Of course the cynical genius of the Telegraph‘s campaign is that if they are able to instill into enough people the false belief that the law does not allow self defence, the only fix is to to re-enact the current law to convince people that self defence is legal. And then, having created the problem, the Telegraph will take credit for solving it.
Just as in the cases of Gullible Gunners part I, II, III and IV, American pro-gun bloggers have lapped this up. They all seem convinced that self defence is not lawful in the UK. There are too many to list; some examples are Kevin Baker, Glenn Reynolds, Dave Kopel and Jim Treacher.