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A robust right of self defence (together with reasonable and legal access to the means of self-defence) strengthens and reaffirms the basic and historical philosophy that citizens have a moral and legal right to defend themselves against criminal attack. It demonstrates that government is democratic and trusts its citizens. It also demonstrates a pragmatic acceptance by the authorities that there will always be a small minority of dangerous criminals or deranged individuals roaming free in our society and that in reality the state is unable to protect the ordinary citizen and their property from such people.
An individual’s right of legal self defence is based on the same law that police use to justify carrying firearms and the use of deadly force. The relevant section (48) of the NZ Crimes Act (Defence Against Assault) states; “Everyone is justified in using, in defence of himself or another, such force as, in the circumstances as he believes them to be, it is reasonable to use.” Note that this applies to everyone and nothing in the Act gives police greater rights or gives grounds for them to discriminate against the self-defence needs of ordinary citizens.
Why then do police hierarchy believe police have a greater right, a greater need and a greater justification to both the right and the means of self defence than the people they are paid to protect?
How is it that police policies and procedures that appear to run counter to the law are allowed to survive unchallenged and continue to be enforced, especially when the evidence over the past decade is that it will increase crime rates?
The concept of a right of self-defence is universal. Blackstone, the famous 17th Century English Constitutional historian called it “inviolate, a primary law of nature”. The right of self-defence has and still belongs to each person, not just to police or to those granted special status by the state.
Self-defence can be considered the most important human right of all, because without it, all other rights ultimately become meaningless. Criminals can strike anywhere and at any time. It is the criminal who chooses his victim; the victim does not choose to be a victim. Criminals strike when they see themselves as having an advantage over their victim.Victims of crime who manage to turn the tables on their attacker should NEVER be held legally responsible for any injury to the perpetrator given that the only person able to change the situation is the perpetrator. Why is it that all too often police hierarchy feel anyone who defends themselves against an attack should be treated just as if they were a criminal too?
It is in reality impossible for police or government to protect every citizen 24 hours a day. In addition, police have no strict legal obligation to protect individual members of the public and are not legally liable for failure to protect.
When a crime is being committed, only the perpetrator and the victim are present, the police have yet to arrive. The reality is that 99% of police work is reactive, and only starts after the crime has been committed. Furthermore, police response times are inconsistent and often unacceptably long even in our towns. In rural areas police might not arrive for hours.
Gun laws only disarm the law-abiding, they will never disarm criminals. Any gun law is just another law for them to break with impunity. In such a situation, disarming the law-abiding majority through restrictive gun laws denies ordinary people their basic right to life if attacked. This is dangerous for victims and clearly helps criminals.. Restrictive and complicated gun laws are OSH legislation favouring violent criminals.
On the other hand,laws allowing potential victims the right and means to effective self-defence work to reduce crime by increasing risks to criminals and by changing the perception of criminals that victims are easy targets. It deters criminals because they are unsure of outcome and because getting it wrong can be dangerous or even fatal for them. The evidence now available shows clearly that not only can ordinary citizens protect themselves better than police or government can ever protect them but that this protection (even if only a few people actually take up the option) extends to other members of their community, whether they choose to have the means to defend themselves or not. The socially beneficial result is lower violent crime rates and a safer society.
Most importantly, the right of self-defence closes an important if poorly understood behavioural loop that left-wing social scientists have been ignoring and trying to destroy for decades.
An effective self-defence law sends the message that, although the authorities and the law cannot prevent certain people from choosing to be disruptive and violent, they can create a social environment in which the consequences of such behaviour will rebound on the perpetrator. In other words, if your behaviour is such that it puts others in fear of their lives, then as you increase fear and risks to others you also automatically increase the risks to yourself. Such consequences have been all but removed from our society and as a result criminal behaviour has rocketed out of control.
Police, however, certainly do make the ordinary citizen more vulnerable to criminal attack by the way they enforce firearm laws and by the way police policies and procedures impose restraints on our basic right of self-defence. Such policies and procedures do not fight crime but simply protect privilege while over a period of time working to increase crime, especially violent crime.
It is time that such counter-productive police policies and procedures were subjected to the long overdue process of robust public and parliamentary scrutiny and that the necessary changes in the law, police attitudes and police policies and procedures were implemented.
It will also facilitate a return to the sort of policing originally envisaged by the founder of modern policing, Sir Robert Peel. Not before time, given that virtually all of his rules for effective community policing have been broken or corrupted in some way by modern social thinkers.
In 1826, the founder of modern policing, Sir Robert Peel set out his basic principles of policing.
The key comment is that "police are ONLY members of the public" doing full time what any law-abiding citizen would be expected to do part time should the need arise. Any rights police had to arrest someone or to use deadly force arose NOT because they were police and therefore special or privilaged but because they were primarily law-abiding citizens and members of the public. This may be a bitter pill for some in the police hierarchy to swallow but there was clearly NEVER any intention to create an elite or para-military police force with a focus on controlling other ordinary law-abiding citizens.
Historically, and right up until some 50 years ago, it was well understood (especially by criminals) that every ordinary citizen was potentially a policeman or policewoman out of uniform. Every Citizen had a clearly defined right (and access to the means) of self-defence AND citizen’s arrest. Anyone at a crime scene was entitled (indeed was expected) to do whatever was necessary to deter, prevent or terminate a crime. As a result, serious crime was very low and both the ordinary citizen and the ordinary police officer were much safer.
The issue of self-defence and the irreplacable contribution to law and order that the ordinary law-abiding citizen can make are two issues on which this present New Zealand government and the people are well apart. Given the evidence, it is surely time to make self-defence, citizen’s arrest and sensible firearms legislation that allow effective self-defence core elements of a well-thought out, realistic and comprehensive law and order policy that will -at long last-be serious both about protecting ordinary citizens and reducing crime. I believe that such a policy will strike a very responsive chord with ordinary New Zealanders.
· What worked then will surely work now. Times might change - people do not.
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