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Mr. Khan rose—

Mr. Dismore: I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Khan).

Mr. Khan: The delay in my rising is the consequence of my just having come to terms with the implications of this draconian and absurd Bill. Will my hon. Friend confirm that in discussing the Oklahoma law, he will talk about the number of people who have been shot dead as a result of it? Will he further confirm that it is referred to locally as the "Make my day" law?

Mr. Dismore: My hon. Friend is right: the Oklahoma law has nothing to do with the musical of the same name; it has been named after Mr. Clint Eastwood's famous line—"Make my day, punk"—from the motion picture "Dirty Harry". Under the "Make my day" law, in effect, anyone who dares to enter someone else's property can be shot dead; any force is permitted. It goes further than the Bill before us today, but in the direction that the hon. Member for North Thanet wanted to go with his Bill, had it made progress.

Although we are not debating the Oklahoma Bill today, we can draw some conclusions from its effect on crime rates, particularly those for burglary, and decide whether it achieve its claimed objective. Given that it contains even tougher measures than those in the Bill before us, if it did not work in Oklahoma, one can only assume that this Bill would make no difference whatsoever to the incidence of burglary. Between the Oklahoma law's introduction in 1987 and 2000, there was a 48.5 per cent. fall in burglaries. Very good, but that is almost exactly the same as the decline in burglary in the United States as a whole, where the law was not
 
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nationwide. So in fact, the law made practically no difference whatsoever to that decline. Even more interestingly, under existing provisions allowing homeowners to defend themselves, UK burglary figures have fallen even further, over a shorter period, than those for Oklahoma or for the US in general.

Mr. Ian Austin: Will my hon. Friend reflect on the appalling situation whereby home owners in the US are being attacked and shot with their own weapons? In some instances, the burglar has broken in and the home owner has produced their gun, only for the burglar to grab it and shoot the home owner. I should also correct my hon. Friend's earlier point: I believe that Clint Eastwood actually said, "Go ahead, punk, make my day."

Mr. Dismore: In fact, I think that the film was "Sudden Impact", rather than "Dirty Harry". However, we have the right actor, even if I named the wrong movie and got the quote wrong; the Oklahoma law is certainly known as the "Make my day" law. Perhaps we can move out of the movie theatre, so that I can draw my introductory remarks to a close and turn to the Bill's detail.

The Bill in effect changes the law of self-defence in relation to burglary. The current law of self-defence is set out in section 3(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1967:

That is a very general definition. For a little more detail, one must go to the bible of criminal law, "Archbold"s Criminal Pleadings, Evidence and Practice". I consulted the 2005 edition, which states that the provisions of section 3

which is what we are talking about—

"Archbold" notes that section 3 reflects the common law.

The common law was well set out by the eminent Law Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, in the Privy Council case of Palmer v. the Crown in 1971. Lord Morris said that

Mr. Khan: I am glad that my hon. Friend mentioned the common law defence. He will be aware that "Archbold" also suggests that section 3 would not cover all cases of defence of the person, noting that if a person was attacked by someone who was insane, so as not to be responsible in law for his acts, the common law defence would apply and kick in. Is not one of the problems with the Bill, introduced by Her Majesty's official Opposition, that there would be a difference
 
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between the statutory defence and the common law defence? If the Bill was passed, there would be a differential law that was less generous to an insane person than statutory law.

Mr. Dismore: My hon. Friend makes a good point and I can add nothing to it. I was not planning to raise that issue so I am grateful to him for doing so.

Lord Morris went on to say:

That is what the Bill would create: a situation in which a relatively minor attack could be met by something completely out of proportion. Lord Morris continued:

That position is not covered by the Bill, but many people may think that it was and they could be criminalised. Under the present law, they may hold back.

Dr. Palmer: Does not that illustrate the point I made earlier? Although we have to accept that members of the public feel that the current law has grey areas, the Bill would only move us to a new grey area, with new dangers and a different set of circumstances under which people could be prosecuted. We could make the situation worse.

Mr. Dismore: My hon. Friend is right. There would still be a grey area because we would still be arguing about what was or was not excessive force, but there would be a further grey area, perhaps tinged with red blood, in that the issues with which we would be dealing would be the consequences of much greater violence.

Lord Morris also said:

In other words, the current law is rooted in common sense. My concern is that what we are being asked to agree to goes way beyond that. It is not common sense. It would make things far worse.

Janet Anderson: Conservative Members have made great play of the fact that the Bill would act as a deterrent, yet the only evidence they have been able to produce was given by one convicted burglar.

Mr. Khan: Who was shot in the buttocks.

Mr. Dismore: My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Janet Anderson) makes the point clearly and my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting also makes the point that the burglar in question was not exactly an objective observer of the situation, as he was a victim, having been shot in the buttocks. His view of what may or may not be
 
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appropriate could be rather different from that of a burglar who has yet to experience a response from a householder.

Mr. Khan: I am not sure whether my hon. Friend has moved off Palmer, but my intervention is about the Palmer point. My hon. Friend quotes Lord Morris and refers implicitly to the subjective and objective test. Does he agree that the test of whether force used in self-defence is reasonable is largely objective? However, the last sentence of the quote from Lord Morris emphasises that there are subjective elements that would depend on a defendant's specific circumstances. That means that the safeguards that we all want are in the law at present, so the Bill is clearly redundant.


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