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I wanted to comment on my hon. Friend's earlier points about the Lord Lieutenant being able to defend himself. Of course an Englishman's home is his castle, and I am pleased that my hon. Friend keeps a cricket bat, in good English tradition, rather than a baseball bat for self-defence. However, there is
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gross disproportionality in someone's ability to defend themselves. I suspect that the Lord Lieutenant may find it easier to get a shotgun or an ordinary firearms licence than someone who lives on the Burnt Oak estate in my constituency. Is that not disproportionate?
Mr. Pound: Indeed it was. It touched on exactly this point: how do we prevent these situations from arising in the first place? Yes, it is absolutely right to have an element of security in the home, but surely the best way to prevent that from happening is not to create an artificial situation in which a burglar is not going to break into a house. We could be talking about some crack-fuelled lunatic who is certainly not going to be thinking about Archbold's studies on criminal law. It is not the fear of death that stops such people but the certainty of arrest and imprisonment. I give credit to my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead for the point that he made earlier about that.
We cannot realistically countenance a situation in which the strong are safer than the weak, or in which physical strength brings the corollary of domestic security. We have to look to the weak. A frail elderly grandmother in my constituency is not going to react warmly and positively to being told that she can use a baseball bat or a shotgun. That simply is not an option, and such people need better from us. They need better than tabloid headlines and they deserve better than having these situations ramped up to create even greater fear. We do not need to exaggerate the fear; we do not need to over-egg that pudding. The fear is real, and it is the response to that fear that we have to address today. It is regrettable that the hon. Member for Newark is unconsciously contributing to the expansion of that fear while not providing any easement of it through legislation that would work.
Mr. Pound: My hon. Friend makes a good point. The person who would have benefited most from this Bill is Kenneth Noye. He was a convicted gangster who killed a police officer who happened to be on Mr. Noye's property without Mr. Noye's permission. Mr. Noye said in court that he had a reasonable suspicion that this figure coming through the shrubbery in his garden was going to do him harm, so he killed him. Kenneth Noye could be prayed in aid in support of this Bill just as much as Brendan Fearon could. Brendan Fearon was mentioned earlier, as was Fred Barras, the 16-year-old boy killed by Tony Martin.
Every politician says that hard cases make bad law, and I understand that the case of Tony Martin is the most extreme case in many ways. However, we cannot avoid the fact that many people out there will see this
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Bill not as the Kenneth Noye law but as the Tony Martin law. We have a responsibility to place on record that Tony Martin killed a 16-year-old boy with an illegally held pump-action shotgun. I said earlier that we were talking not about legal niceties and trivialities but about life and death. Fred Barras will never have the opportunity to mend his ways or to become a worthwhile contributing citizen of this country. He will never have the opportunity of redemption, because he died at the age of 16. I hold no brief for those who break into other people's homes, but I cannot, with anything other than great sadness, look at a situation in which a 16-year-old boy in bad company is shot once and then again, in the back, as he flees the home of Tony Martin.
I think that we have to look in our hearts and ask, "Was that 16-year-old boy so incapable of redemption that he deserved death?" I suggest that he did not deserve death, and that any implication in the Bill that anybody who breaks into someone's home deserves death would be a step too farone that leads us into very dangerous waters.
Mr. Dismore: My hon. Friend has referred to this as the Tony Martin Bill, but I understand from what the hon. Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer) has said that the Tony Martin case would have been decided in exactly the same way under this test as under the existing test. One of the problems we have here is that people are being given a false impression of what the Conservative party is up to with the Bill, rather than the real and accurate position. In practice, that use of force by Tony Martin would be grossly disproportionate, because he was not trying to defend himself at all. He was seeking revenge, which is not permitted under either the existing law or the Bill.
Mr. Pound: As ever, my hon. Friend makes a rather good and telling point. Much as I have enjoyed jousts in the television studios with the hon. and gallant Member for Newark, I have also appeared on a number of programmes with Mr. Martin. It is not for me, as an unqualified person, to comment entirely on his intellectual analysis of the situation, but he was described by a near neighbour of his as being as mad as a box of hot frogs.
Perhaps we should put Tony Martin aside. Let us not forget that his lonely farmhouse, Bleak House, had been broken into some dozen times. I look to the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) for confirmation or denial of that. The fact that he had suffered in that way does not excuse what happened. Is not the absolute heartthe cruxof the debate what should happen when a person is being victimised? Are we seriously talking about a world of elephant traps, shotgunsillegally held or otherwiseand the arms race, or are we saying that the law is on the side of the victim? The law is on the side of the householder, and the presumption of innocence will always rest with the householder, never with the intruder.
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Mr. Dismore: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. He has been speaking for 50 minutes and I know that he has said quite a lot about this, but I want to return to the key point of the burden of proof when a defence of self-defence is used. In such circumstances, the law is definitely on the side of the person who has been charged with the offence, because the burden of proving that the defence of self-defence does not apply is on the prosecution, which is trying to gain a conviction, not on the person defending himself.
Mr. Pound: My hon. Friend makes that point extremely well. I wish I were more familiar with the lawalthough I have to say that by the end of a few more Fridays like this I might be, if not approaching qualification in it, at least a little better educated, if not more intelligent.
I am acutely aware of the fact that others wish to speak and I will bring my remarks to a close. I repeat what I said at the beginning, which is that I respect the emotionthe motivesof the hon. and gallant Member for Newark. However, we hear one phrase over and over again every time this issue is debated, whether in the great debating halls of the Palace or on television or radioI shall not even mention Radio 4. The expression prayed in aid is archaic and anachronistic, but often repeated: "An Englishman's home is his castle." I suggest that one can make a case for saying that the Englishman's home is his castle, but whether a person's home is a castle or not, they do not have the right to pour boiling oil over somebody coming up the front path. I rest on that point.
David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): I note that the final remark of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) on the Englishman's home being his castle is rather different from the Government's aim to make it his dungeon, as it would appear. I hope that I can speak in rather less time than he took on his speech.
Most of today's debate has been extremely good, despite the frequent appearance of Aunt Sally on the Government Benches. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer) not just on obtaining the first position in the private Member's Bill ballot, but on putting it to such good effect? He made a brilliant speech this morning, and I agree with the Liberal spokesman, who is not in his place at the moment, that what he has done has already had an effecta constructive one.
I also congratulate the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) on a courageous and clear speech in support of the Bill, and on his honesty in describing what he saw as the Government's beliefs. It is rare that I congratulate Liberal spokesmen, but the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) made a speech that went right to the core of the issue in terms of
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the balance of proof and the balance between the victimthe householder, in this caseand the burglar. We have heard some extremely important speeches in support of this important Bill.
The Conservative party supports this Bill, as do so many others. Sir John Stevens, the recently retired Metropolitan Police Commissioner, supports it. The new commissioner Sir Ian Blair signalled initial support, but I shall draw a veil over what happened thereafter. The listeners of BBC Radio 4's "Today" programme voted for a similar Bill to be brought forward last year, as the hon. Member for Ealing, North has painful reason to remember.
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