09 October 2012

Beating up burglars

It's the latest attempt to tickle the Tory Party's erogenous zones.  Unfortunately, it will become enmeshed in a semantic quagmire.  The Guardian reports:

The justice secretary will say: "Being confronted by an intruder in your own 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 victims of crime 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 today delivering on the pledge that we made in opposition."
The change to the law, which is likely to be signalled in the next Queen's speech, will for the first time mean that householders can use "disproportionate" force in exceptional circumstances. Under the current law, homeowners are allowed to use "reasonable force" to defend themselves in their home or on the street to protect others, to prevent crime or to protect property. But the force cannot be disproportionate.
Grayling's change will mean that if a householder uses force which he or she believed was reasonable at the time, but was in fact disproportionate, then that could be deemed to be lawful.

Synonyms for "disproportionate" include such words as "excessive" or "more than necessary".  By definition, what is disproportionate cannot at the same time (or even at a later time) be considered reasonable.  If a householder goes beyond reasonable force, then also by definition it must be disproportionate.  If Mr Grayling can come up with an explanation which will meet legal requirements, then he will be a rather better linguistic philosopher than I think he is.

In any case, with overcrowded prisons and overloaded courts, has the Justice Secretary nothing better to do?


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