Monday, February 25, 2002
"The greatest pleasure in life is to begin" - said somebody. So, without any fanfare, I'll begin.
The other day the UK Libertarian Alliance put out a doughty defence of a householder who had killed a burglar and then been detained by police for two days. The man reported that the intruder had held a knife to his wife's throat.
I'd better not make any comment on this specific case: I don't know when the question of contempt of court becomes relevant if legal proceedings should grind into action. (Though I hope there aren't going to be any against this man.)
But in general the issue is clear-cut: no-one should suffer a moment's inconvenience from the police when an intruder is killed and there is no evidence to suggest that the violence was unnecessary: no evidence, for example, that the burglar was killed in cold blood after being subdued.
When there are no contrary facts, there is not only a presumption of innocence: there is a presumption of heroism and public service. A medal and a handshake from the mayor should be automatic. When more burglars die, burglary rates in this country will start to fall towards American levels.
But I hope the next press release from the LA in a similar case will be a bit more carefully phrased. Declaiming in a few breathless sentences on the ineptness of our police, the need to restore capital punishment, and the removal of legal impunity from children irresistibly summons up an image of vicious, corrupt rozzers herding hapless infants to the gallows. Not what was intended at all.
You can be a libertarian and draw a line (many lines) between childhood and adulthood – where criminal responsibility is concerned, for example.
And, concentrating on adults: you can be a libertarian and reject execution as a punishment in principle; and you can be a libertarian and think that, even if execution is justified in principle, the incompetence and worse of our police and courts should rule it out in practice.
I'd say that beginning was a moderate pleasure.