----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Tim Lambert" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Sent: Monday, July 26, 2004 9:12 PM
Subject: [inbox] Self-defence in Britain

> In the light of claims that self-defence is now illegal in Britain,
> readers might be interested in my post at
> http://cgi.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/cgi-bin/blog/2004/07#gullible4
> It's rather long so I'll just post a few extracts:
> Joyce Lee Malcolm, writing about British law on self-defence:
>     That willingness was further undermined by a broad revision of
>     criminal law in 1967 that altered the legal standard for
>     self-defense. Now everything turns on what seems to be
>     "reasonable" force against an assailant, considered after the
>     fact. As Glanville Williams notes in his Textbook of Criminal Law,
>     that requirement is "now stated in such mitigated terms as to cast
>     doubt on whether it [self-defense] still forms part of the law."
> Malcolm has doctored the quote from Glanville Williams to reverse its
> meaning. The word "it" does not refer to self-defence as Malcolm's
> addition to the quote indicates, but to the requirement that the
> defender's belief that his actions were necessary had to be a
> reasonable belief. If this requirement is no longer part of the law it
> makes it easier to plead self-defence.
> Here is the entire paragraph that Malcolm pulled her quote from. It is
> is clear that "it" refers to "The requirement of reasonableness" and
> not to "self-defence":
>     The requirement of reasonableness is unhappy. Enough has been said
>     in criticism of it, and the CLRC has recommended that it should be
>     expunged from the law. In practice, as we have seen, the
>     requirement may be construed indulgently to the defendant, for, as
>     Holmes J memorably said in the United States Supreme Court,
>     "detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an
>     uplifted knife." As we shall see in the next section, the
>     requirement is now stated in such mitigated terms as to cast doubt
>     on whether it still forms part of the law.

I spent a bit of time reading the full quote, and I don't think "doctored"
the right word.  In fact, I am not even sure that Malcolm has it wrong.
The pronoun "it" could be read as referring to either the requirement of
"reasonableness" or self-defense.  Part of why I suspect that Malcolm has
correctly identified what "it" refers to, and that you have not (a easy
mistake to
make considering the text), is some other text that Malcolm quotes from
Williams in _Guns and Violence: The English Experience_ at p. 187.  She
Williams at considerable length, without anything bracketed or ellipsed, in
Williams gives examples such as this:

   In 1978 a man, O'Shea, feared he was about to be set upon by a gang
   of youths.  While defending himself, he accidentally killed one.  The
   his plea of self-defence and sentenced him to four years in prison.  On
   appeal his sentence was affirmed.

   In 1980 Shannon was attacked by a bully--a heavily built man who had
   previous convictions for violence and had threatened Shannon's life.
   Shannon fought back and witnesses described the fight (evidently
   "pretty frightening."  Shannon testified that he was held by the neck and
   being dragged down and "kneed."  He lashed out with a pair of scissors
   and inflicted a fatal blow.  The jury heard a great deal of questioning
   how Shannon happened to be carrying scissors, an issue irrelevant to the
   charge.  In the event the jury found him guilty of manslaughter.  The
   of Appeal reversed the decision, not because of the verdict, but because
   of a fault in the judge's charge.

Clayton E. Cramer

To post, send message to [EMAIL PROTECTED]
To subscribe, unsubscribe, change options, or get password, see 

Reply via email to