Right to self-defence under assault


Citizens treated like felons for taking up weapons against criminals

Lorne Gunterby Lorne Gunter
Edmonton Journal

Over the past half century, the right of citizens in Western countries to defend themselves has eroded.

This is partly due to neglect. As our societies have urbanized, we have shown greater willingness to let professional police officers defend our loved ones, our property and ourselves. After all, more of us now live closer to police stations than our parents, or certainly our grandparents.

But the erosion of our right to self-defence has also been a deliberate initiative by governments. Increasingly, politicians, policy-makers, academics and police have come to think that citizens who take up weapons – firearms or otherwise – to defend themselves are as dangerous to social peace as criminals.Nowhere has this latter attack on self-defence been more obvious than in the case of British farmer Tony Martin.

In 1999, Martin shot two burglars who had broken into his remote Norfolk farm in the middle of the night. He killed one and injured the other.

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Despite the fact Martin was afraid for his life and police were more than half an hour way, he was the one officers charged when they finally arrived at his home.

In the end, Martin spent more time in prison than his surviving attacker.

Not only that, the British government paid the cost of his attacker’s lawyer so the attacker could sue Martin for the long-term disabilities he claimed he suffered as a result of being shot.

In Canada, we have several similar cases in which who is the victim and who the criminal has been turned upside down by police and Crown prosecutors.

Last August, Ian Thomson of Port Colborne, Ont., awoke early one morning to find three men lobbing firebombs at his rural home while also shouting death threats at him. A trained firearms instructor, Thomson took a handgun he legally owned from the storage safe where he kept it in his home and fired warning shots over the attackers’ heads.

When he reported the incident to police, they charged him with careless storage of a firearm and dangerous use.

Eventually, charges against Thomson were dropped, but not until after much public pressure had been brought on prosecutors. Without public outrage, it is unlikely the Crown would have decided on its own to leave Thomson alone.

In Alberta, we have the case of Joe Singleton, a Taber oilfield consultant who last May returned home with his wife to find a burglar had broken into their acreage. Singleton blocked the man’s getaway car with his pickup. Then, as the thief repeated smashed his car into the homeowner’s truck, Singleton took the nearest weapon he could find – a hatchet – and struck the man on the face with the flat side.

Months later, without ever having interviewed him about the incident, police called Singleton down to their detachment to, he presumed, return objects taken from his home.

Instead, based solely on the word of the burglar, police charged Singleton.

This past June, prosecutors finally dropped the charges against Singleton, but not before they had pressured him into doing hours of community service to avoid going to trial.

In effect, the Crown pressured Singleton into accepting a sentence similar to what he might have faced if found guilty.

Lawrence Manzer, a former soldier living in New Brunswick recently had charges against him dismissed. He had been facing charges for confronting intruders on his neighbour’s property and scaring them off with an unloaded shotgun.

Police and the Crown were unmoved by the fact the gun was unloaded.

They were angered that Manzer had dared defend his neighbour himself rather than waiting for police. It took a judge to sort out correctly who was the criminal.

Indeed, in Canada, judges are the best guardians of self-defending citizens.

Thursday, a three-judge panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal acquitted Steven Forde of a 2007 manslaughter conviction. In 2006, Forde was confronted in his apartment by Clive McNabb. Both were drug dealers and Forde was living in a common-law relationship with McNabb’s ex-wife.

The two men had had violent encounters before. On June 13, 2006, McNabb burst into Forde’s Toronto apartment to collect a drug debt. He struck his ex-wife (Forde’s commonlaw partner), then pulled a knife on Forde. Forde also drew a knife and stabbed McNabb, killing him.

Granted, neither of these men is a sympathetic character. But the Ontario Court of Appeal found that whether or not you are a nice person, you have a right to defend yourself in your own home from someone you reasonably presume is out to harm you.

At Forde’s 2007 trial, the Crown had successfully argued that because there was a route out of his apartment that would have allowed Forde to escape without passing by McNabb directly, his use of deadly force was unwarranted.

The appeal court judges said that nowhere in Canadian law is this requirement recognized.

We may not like the fact that the right to self-defence has been upheld in the case of a drug dealer, but at least it has been upheld.

Original web source: Edmonton Journal

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