Burglar Bashing: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em…

On the 9th of October, the Minister of Justice, Chris Grayling, announced the proposal to change law which stops homeowners being able to attack burglars, or those breaking and entering into their home. In 1999, the farmer, Tony Martin, was prosecuted for shooting a burglar dead who was aiming to intrude Martin’s home. The Conservative cabinet reshuffle has brought Grayling into a promoted position to Minister of Justice, replacing Kenneth Clarke; Grayling is said to be bringing a harder stance into the role than Clarke, but how tough is too tough?

“Grossly disproportionate”. That is the phrase Grayling is throwing around, saying that a homeowner can only use force to remove an intruder as long as it is not to a “grossly disproportionate” level, which to my mind already sets off alarm bells. Should this law come into place, and this term be used as a part of enforcing said law, what is seen as “grossly disproportionate” to one person may well be changeable for another. If the judge who is ruling the case has been burgled him or herself, then this could lead to subtle cues being subconsciously fed into the judge’s decision making. They could press in favour of the homeowner more so than the burglar than, say, a judge who has never first hand experienced an intruder in their home. The risk for me, in this situation, is that there is far too much room for interpretation within this phrase, and whether the burglar has rounded up the family and held them at knife-point (as in the Minir Hussain case, 2009) or has simply broken in and nicked a camera, could change the decision as to what degree the burglar was intruding. Isn’t intrusion intrusion; black and white, illegal, end of story? Or is the mindless torture that an elderly woman with boiling water and brute force worse than someone smashing a window, and stealing something to sell on? This is where the line becomes blurred.

Let me say now: I am never in favour of harming another human being. I am against death penalty; I am against corporal punishment; I even was offended by people celebrating the death of another human being, even if it was Saddam Hussain. However, I am in favour of family’s being able to protect their homes, individuals being able to look after their belongings and loved ones, and private property remaining a safe, and enclosed area where someone can feel safe. I think the notion of ‘home’ should never be undermined, and as seen in the latest burglar alarm advert (I’m a sucker for marketing) – it’s not always what is taken, but what is left behind. Intrusion can cause huge amounts of psychological damage upon the victim, and I do not believe that anybody should be subjected to that kind of fear in their own home.

Let’s look at it another way: when a pedestrian runs out in front of an approaching car, even when the red man is shown, the driver is automatically prosecuted for dangerous driving if they are even a smidge over the speed limit. The pedestrian acting foolishly is automatically not to blame, and it is seen as should the driver have been driving at the limit, the collision may not or would not have happened. So, why should a homeowner be prosecuted for chasing a burglar out of their house with the use of force when the intruder was the one who initially broke the law? When the burglar walked into the house, they were aware of the risk of the homeowner being there to force them out physically/the driver was aware when speeding that they were putting others on the road at risk. The dilemma stands as this: a homeowner is protecting their home from an intruder, but they are prosecuted for attacking the law-breaking burglar. “No! That is unfair! They are keeping a criminal out of their home!” some may argue. However, does the law turning a blind eye to violence mean that the government is saying one wrong cancels out a consequential wrong-doing? Doesn’t this mean that, actually, beating another human being is okay, as long as they’re a burglar? Hm. Something doesn’t fit here for me.

This potential law is far too swamped in Gray(ling) (sorry) area for my mind. Yes, batter somebody who comes into your house. Does it mean it’s okay to end somebody’s life, or harm them through force just because they’ve entered your house illegally? That person has a family, friends, maybe a spouse and children; maybe money is so tough that crime is what they’ve been pushed to, or they’ve ended up in a bad group, turned to gang crimes, and have been coerced into breaking and entering. But then again, maybe they’re just thoughtless yobs, pinching stuff from your grandmother’s dresser. Yes – protect your house and family. What I really feel is, by this law coming into place however, is that a whole new gateway will be opened in which people will say that their actions in “the heat of the moment” need to be lawfully protected as well, and a floodgate will open, and unprecedented issues will arise. Human rights will be invoked, and homeowners will maybe begin to argue harassment is the same level of intrusion in terms of psychological harm to their family.

I am sooo not pro-burglar. I think that they should have all their stuff taken, or their house trashed, and see how they feel. However, I do not know still, how I feel about the legalisation of so-called ‘burglar bashing’, especially with such a loosely phrased T&C attached. My head is saying it’s fine, but my heart is saying, doesn’t this mean that the homeowner could be just as bad as the burglar? I could just be overly brain-washed by my slightly eccentric father, or I could be a child of the ‘Politically Correct’ Age. Or a total Leftie?

Maybe I need to invest in a guard dog to do my dirty work for me…

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Ebacc-k off, Gove..!

Taking note from a typical Conservative ideological notion of not fixing it if it ain’t broken, it seems obvious that it shouldn’t be GCSEs which are attacked by further Tory adjustments. The shambolic Coalition which is balancing in place as I type seems adamant that skirting around true issues is the best way to go. Gove’s insistence that the GCSEs need to be scrapped are a fine example of this. Correct me if I’m wrong, but surely it should be the teaching and the curriculum which should be changed rather than the way in which measuring a school’s success; that is, the examination process.

When initially speaking of the benefits of the Ebacc, Gove said they would “dramatically strengthen the position of core academic subjects in our schools, and stop the shift to less challenging courses driven by the current perverse accountability system”. This in itself raises the question, I am sure the Lib Dems should be asking themselves, as to whether the government has any place pushing academic choices rather forcefully out of the private sphere of a pupil’s life, and into the public sphere, being tampered with through the skewering of the measure of academic success. However, that is whole other kettle of fish, which I am sure I’ll end up rambling about at a later date. The true issue that lies with the change to a purely exam-based style with the Ebacc from GCSE, which currently operate using both examination and coursework, is the positive spin the Government is placing on the art of ‘cramming’.

As a student at university, and a previous, self-confessed fair-weather A-Leveller, I am no stranger to cramming. It really is an art form. One loads their bags full of energy drinks/caffeinated products/alcoholic beverages according to their work style, and spends around forty-eight hours minimum with match sticks propping their eyelids open, camped up in the library. However, this work style is not beneficial if the skills necessary for the exam which is being crammed for are also necessary for further education. If a pupil has taken their GCSEs in accordance to the A-Levels or Degree they wish to study later on, an Ebacc only encourages short-term study techniques, in that, it’ll float around their brains until the minute the exam invigilator says those immortal words: “Pens down, the exam is over”. As soon as they toddle out of the exam hall, nattering about the exam questions they “just didn’t get”, that is it! The knowledge has seeped out their pores and is left behind with only the evidence on their exam paper.

My point boils down to this: the only ones who are going to suffer are the pupils who are at a true disadvantage. This is what has rattled my cage. The Conservative shepherds have led astray (once again!) the Lib Dem flock, and there really is seemingly no concern for those at the Labour set-up Academy schools, or at schools near the bottom of the league table. The only pupils and schools which will flourish from the introduction of the Ebacc, are the private schools, where intensive tuition to prepare for examinations is provided, and pupils are hot-housed into getting consistent A* and A results with little, or no knowledge outside of what they need for passing the exam.

Henceforth, finally, we arrive back at my initial point. Apologies for the waffle in between. Basically, what I am getting at is that it should not be the measuring technique that changes. That’s like making a cake, and saying “I don’t have 4oz of butter, but I DO have 4g… Perfect!”. You’ll have the right numbers but the cake will be shite. What Michael Gove is missing (of many things) is the understanding that GCSEs aren’t the issue – the teaching standards and the curriculum are, and if the Government keeps the measurement of success consistent, then we, the masses, will be able to see improvements gradually, and the teachers will be working with what they already know. The cake will be a progressively better cake, and maybe, just maybe, one day, we can hope for a better Secretary of State for Education; wouldn’t that just be the icing on the overmentioned, metaphorical cake!?