I appreciate the posts on OutspokenRabbit can often leave readers with the impression that I am some sort of miserable malcontent. There might be a grain of truth in this, but I must confess to seeing two news items in a single day with which I was absolutely delighted. It's not often that personal liberty wins on dual fronts within a matter of hours, so we had better enjoy it while it lasts.
First up, Mr Justice McCombe's ruling in the High Court following the Hookway Case last month means that cops now have a maximum of 96 hours in which to either charge a detainee with the offence for which they are a suspect, or release them without charge. This has thrown our police, an institution used to getting its own way for more than a decade, into a state of utter chaos - good. The predictable rabble of politicians have turned up in various media streams to announce their widespread sense of panic at these developments, and their intention to pass 'emergency legislation' in order to get around the 'difficulties' caused by them. So much for an independent and apolitical judiciary, eh?
The reality is that this change does not equate to a charter for more criminals to roam the streets, as some have warned. What this simply does is re-establish the principle that until there is sufficient evidence with which to charge an individual with a specific offence, then the state has no right to impose restrictions on their personal liberty. There is nothing to stop the police from investigating further, then re-arresting the same man if new evidence comes to light, so what is the problem? A large part of it lies in the way in which a succession of measures have slowly eroded the notion of the presumption of innocence. Once this fundamental piece of our legal framework becomes compromised in the eyes of the public, then all manner of draconian steps can be justified in the name of security or law and order.
What people perhaps need to remember is that it is not just villains and general scumbags who get caught up in this mess. The individual subjected to bail restrictions could be you, I, or any innocent person who could have been in the wrong place in the wrong time, maybe deemed guilty by association on the basis of a hunch from a solitary PC. Dragging the process out for weeks or months does not make the streets any safer in such instances, and instead smacks of high-handedness for the sake of it. This is where the political arms race to be 'tough on crime' and appease the populist press has inevitably led us.
Any imposition of the state's will on individuals in the name of security is a trade-off, and sometimes the general population neglects to calculate whether the old statist maxim of "if it saves one life then it is all worth it" is really a proportionate response to whatever problem might be facing the authorities at that moment in time (the raft of insane anti-terror legislation is a high-profile example of this). After all, if we want to pursue such simplicity to its logical conclusion, why not just lock everyone up or at least tag them, thereby ensuring virtually no crime is committed at all?
So God bless the independent judiciary for striking a blow in the name of personal liberty - however, the news got even better as Ken Clarke unveiled plans to change the laws on self-defence in the home. In the future, the old grey area of "reasonable force" will be replaced by "whatever force is necessary" when determining what a householder can do to repel intruders. This would mean that as long as the force used was deemed necessary at the time, someone who for instance stabs and kills a burglar would not be liable to prosecution. While this is not the end-game of where I would want to go, it certainly represents progress on a number of levels, and is also a refreshing step change from the indecisive 'giving householders confidence' rubbish spouted by the Tories in recent years on the subject.
Aside from the fact that this stops people from having to think about legal ramifications while in a state of blind panic, the most important element of this amendment is that it breaks the notion that the law is the exclusive possession of the state. It is fair to say that Tony Martin and others in his situation have divided opinion between the ruling class and us mere subjects on this issue, with the Norfolk farmer held up by many of the population as a martyr in the name of self-defence, while the establishment sought to treat him as firmly as they could, using his case as a deterrent to the rest of us regarding the question of 'taking the law into our own hands'. In reality, the law belongs to all of us, and we merely delegate it to the police and the courts for enforcement on our behalf. Anything which clearly allows people to defend themselves, their loved ones and their property represents a shift towards this line of thinking and ought to be welcomed.
But then, won't intruders begin to carry guns as a means of loading the dice back in their favour? There's no point lying about it - maybe they will. We will then face the prospect of a popular law on self-defence with absolutely no appetite for change, and the spectre of more armed criminals on our streets. This will push the case for allowing widespread gun ownership to the top of the political agenda for the first time in decades. We would have to look again at the emotionally-charged laws that came as an result of the Dunblane massacre, and the logical conclusion would surely be that if you really want to even up the game between householders and intruders, then allowing you and I to own a firearm (unless we have been convicted of a firearms offence I should add) is the only way to go. The statists tell you to lie down and give them everything you have worked for - I'd ask, why not simply give them a face full of lead?
So today we've seen a significant shift towards restoring due process and the presumption of innocence in our legal system, followed by the first steps towards establishing the castle principle on the question of self-defence. This may well be the sewing of the first seed towards an end to the state's monopoly on force and firearms, and for an individual committed to the concepts of freedom and personal liberty, that can be no bad thing. It's not too often I say this, but all things considered, it's been a pretty good day to be a libertarian.