serious

Crime.

There's a big fuss at the moment about how unpleasant people are allowed to be to burglars, muggers and other assorted ne'erdowells. I was both amused and horrified by this clarification of the situation:

Mr Macdonald said only 11 householders had been prosecuted in the past 15 years, of whom five were convicted.

The most notorious case was that of Norfolk farmer Tony Martin, jailed for life for shooting dead 16-year-old burglar Fred Barras in 1999. The murder conviction was reduced to manslaughter on appeal and Mr Martin was freed in July 2003.

Another man who was convicted had lain in wait for a burglar on commercial premises in Cheshire, beat him up, threw him in a pit and set him on fire.

All good clean fun, eh?

I also notice that climatologists at this big conference are discussing the likelihood of the Gulf Stream shutting down. This would mean lots more white Christmasses, not to mention white Halloweens and white Easters.[1]

Another interesting point here. You'll notice that the defendant was clearly delusional at the time he committed the crime, but chose to plead guilty rather than try for an acquittal based on this. Very sensible course of action, actually.


[1] OK. Possibly a slight exaggeration. It would definitely mean glaciers would start forming in Scotland, though.

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One wonders what "Neil" wants the police to do, exactly, to "provide better security"...
Indeed. I'd be surprised to hear a copper giving him that advice, though. I've been given talks by the polis about how far it's legal to go with force on various different grounds, and there wasn't anything like he said. I've a piece of paper at home with notes - which Act justifies intervening to stop an offence, which justifies grabbing and keeping someone you see committing one, and so on. It doesnt sound like something a police officer would say.
This would mean lots more white Christmasses, not to mention white Halloweens and white Easters.

Fortunately the climatologists predicting 11 centigrade of global warming should cancel them out -- hoorah!
What if it goes up a couple, then we lose six from this before we get any more? We'd still be four down. I won't live to see the full eleven even if they're right.
To be honest, while I am concerned about global warming, I find it hard to get worried about predictions of the Gulf Stream shifting anyway. Predicting dynamic fluid flow is notoriously fairly hard.
It has happened in the past though, so I don't think it a complete fantasy. Given how catastrophic it could be it's well worth seriosu investigation.
No... it warrants serious investigation. But the reports I've read (admittedly pop science renderings in magazines such as NS) don't actually seem to have a model for it but instead say "ooh, it might happen... woah wouldn't that be bad." Perhaps the state of the art has advanced since then.
I saw a fairly in depth article on it on Horizon (not sure where that falls on the pop-science scale). The basic premise is that if large amounts of freshwater are dumped into the north Atlantic due to melting glaciers, the change in the level of salt in the water will mess up the physics of the convection current and essentialy switch off the gulf stream, it is also being affected by increased outflow of freshwater from North Russian rivers, due to higher levels of rainfall.

There is archaelogical evidence that the gulf stream has switched on and off in the past, in as little as 20 years IIRC. I think there was also evidence linking those events to large lumps of ice breaking free into the North Atlantic.

It's been a whlie since I saw the program, so the details are a bit vague in my mind. But it certainly seemed to paint a fairly detailed and plausable picture. But then I'm not an enviromental scientist so am perhaps easier to convince :o)

I was hearing just yesterday (on the Today program) as well that scientists have found that ice breaking away from the edge of an ice sheet actualy accelerates the movement of ice from the interior of the flow to the edge, so the increase in water levels (and presumably the amount of fresh water melting into the sea) is happening faster than was previously predicted.
The horizon program is the sort of thing I was meaning. Not sure I saw that particular one but I've seen them before. It's all at the level of "woo, this could happen" rather than actually having a causitive model.

I wouldn't say I was an "environmental scientist" -- I occasionally get to conferences with environmental scientists there but that's the best I can claim on that score so this all should be taken as just the vague wibblings of someone wanting to actually see something more rigorous in the area.
Climatologists at this conference are apparently giving out probability (gu)estimates in the 50% range, give or take a few tens. They seem to regard it as a clear and present danger.
Doesn't differ, in principle. Of course, if somebody's broken into your home then you've more certainty that they're up to no good.
I actualy think the government has played this fairly well (quick, record this it doesnt happen very often).

The existing laws do work, and as you point out most of the cases where someone has been prosecuted for excessive force in defence were pretty open and shut. I think the wibble about changing the wording to 'grossly disproportionate' would have no practical impact on the application of the law, it just sounds good.

On the other hand, whatever the realities of the application of law, the general public has got it into thier colletive heads that if they stand up to a burglar they could be in trouble. That is not good and has various negative ramifications.

By putting on an information campaign to let people know that they will not be expected to make fine legal distinctions in the heat of the moment, and in nearly all cases will be given the benefit of the doubt (there isn't much doubt in lying in ambush for someone with a shotgun), they are dealing with it appropriately, as changing the law would just be a waste of parliamentary time.
the general public has got it into thier colletive heads that if they stand up to a burglar they could be in trouble. That is not good and has various negative ramifications.

Absolutely. People have to be able to feel safe in their homes, and need to know that they can defend themselves. I don't know quite how we ended up with the current perception, but it has to be changed.
By high profile mis-reporting of cases like Mr Martin.

He was not the innocent victim of unfair justice, but was made out be one by press headlines. Many people didn't bother to read the detail, just the headlines and soundbites beneath photos. It rather ecapsulates the whole way political issues work these days. (Insert irony about New Labour having to deal with the results of spin)

To be honest I have a certain sympathy with the view that if someone breaks into your home they have no protection in the law (i.e. how it works in America), the obvious answer being to not break into peoples homes. But our legal system doesn't work on that basis and there are many risks inherant in that approach (specificaly mistakes although that is less of a risk when you dont have firearms).

The kind of cases the press has highlighted aren't event good reasons to change things though.