Common Sense Self Defense For Modern Times
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UK Self Defense Issues
In the UK self defense is enshrined in law but, like many Countries (especially in Europe) you are only allowed to use "reasonable force" to defend your self. That term "reasonable force" is one of the most irritating and badly thought out terms in modern law... What is reasonable force??? In recent years this has been called into question on several occasions. So, I'll do my best to outline what the UK law means and how it should be interpreted. Bare in mind, I am not a legal expert, I am a programmer!
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In translation this would seem to mean that you do not have to wait until someone hits you before your self defense right become active. If you feel threatened enough, you feel this person is about to attack, you feel you are in danger of being harmed or having property stolen, you can pre-emptively attack.
A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances for the purposes of: self-defence; or defence of another; or defence of property; or prevention of crime; or lawful arrest.
So, you can use "reasonable force" to defend your self, another, property, prevent crime and/or do a citizens arrest or help a police office to arrest an un-ruly person.
In assessing the reasonableness of the force used, prosecutors should ask two questions: was the use of force necessary in the circumstances, i.e. Was there a need for any force at all? and was the force used reasonable in the circumstances? The courts have indicated that both questions are to answered on the basis of the facts as the accused honestly believed them to be. To that extent it is a subjective test. There is, however, an objective element to the test. The jury must then go on to ask themselves whether, on the basis of the facts as the accused believed them to be, a reasonable person would regard the force used as reasonable or excessive.
This is where the water becomes misty... Your idea of reasonable force might be bludgeoning someone to near death, mine might be using some harsh language. At this point in time you are at the mercy of 12 of your peers (I'll keep a positive thought for you).
Failure to retreat when attacked and when it is possible and safe to do so, is not conclusive evidence that a person was not acting in self defence. It is simply a factor to be taken into account rather than as giving rise to a duty to retreat when deciding whether the degree of force was reasonable in the circumstances. It is not necessary that the defendant demonstrates by walking away that he does not want to engage in physical violence.
This one is a doozie! The idea that NOT walking away can potentially (read WILL) be used against you in a court of law is disgusting! To turn your back on an aggressor is the most ill-advised thing ANYONE can do, especially if said attacker is armed.
It follows that a man who starts the violence, the aggressor, cannot rely upon self-defence to render his actions lawful.
If you go out to attack someone and bite off more than you can chew, YOU are responsible for perpetrating unlawful violence! The ONLY time you can use violence is in self-defense!
The definition of an offensive weapon is any article made or adapted for use for causing injury to the person, or intended by the person having it with him for such use by him, or by some other person. (N.B. this definition includes a disguised knife).
You need to understand how the law _really_ works to understand what this means... In my experience you are NOT innocent until proven guilty, you are in fact, guilty until you prove your self to be innocent! In this case "adapted" will mean ANYTHING that you use to injure someone with. In the UK it is legal to carry a non-locking folding knife with a blade length of less than 3 inches. If you use this legal carry knife in self defense to injure someone you are "adapting" it cause injury and you are guilty of possessing an offensive weapon and WILL be charged as such (the same applies to house hold items used to ward of burglars (rolling pin, frying pan, broom stick, fish slice and the like)). In fact ANYTHING you use to cause injury has been "adapted" to cause injury. You don't need to spike a baseball bat with nails to "adapt" the baseball bat, all you need to do is whack someone with it. For me the word "adapted" should be changed to "used" to make the law crystal clear.
If you do find yourself arrested for defending yourself DO NOT SAY A WORD. Tell them your name and address then say NO COMMENT! They are NOT your friends, they are NOT there to help you if you have been arrested, they are there to find eveidence enough to secure a conviction! Listen to the rights they read you: You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence. _MAY_ in law terms translates to WILL in court! In a classroom in prison I asked 20 odd convicts if they spoke in their interviews... 19 of them said yes!!! That tells me and anyone else with a brain that speaking when under arrest is a bad idea even if you think it is in your defence!
If you do find yourself in a court room being forced to defend your self-defence rights you must NEVER under any circumstances let on thet you kept stuff in your pocket or handbag for self defence purposes. This will turn even the most mundane objects (a tin or hairspray, a heavy bunch of keys) into offensive weapons!
So with all that miserable law out of the way you should now understand that in the UK (and most of Europe by the way) the criminals are protected and have rights just as you do EVEN THOUGH THEY make a calculated and pre-meditated DELIBERATE choice to harm or steal. You however, you are forced to make a choice you would not normally make.. Be killed, be Raped, have your property taken or FIGHT BACK! And while making that choice you have to bare in mind you could actually end up being convicted of one or more offenses.. Sad isn't it, sad that someone who sets out to deliberately harm people has rights? The press and government is always complaining about bad handling of "victims" by the police and courts, maybe if the government gave us more choice (allowing us to carry weapons for self defense and changing "reasonable force" to "any means necessary") to NOT be victims they would not have to worry and complain so much!
I have been in violent situations a few times in my life and in each situation fighting back limited the damage done to me. The times I didn't fight back I copped far more of a beating than the times I defended myself. I don't practice any kind of self defense (martial arts, boxing and such), I just wing it. I don't drink in public so I normally have my witts about me and, let's face it, most "trouble" involves alcohol.
Violent resistance to violence WORKS!
People always point out countries with looser firearms laws have massive amounts of gun crimes. This is commonly true, they do have more firearm related crime and more gun related murder. Journalists and anti-gun campaigners love to use America as an example, they forget Switzerland (one of the highest gun ownership rates in the world) and the Czech Republic (a shall-issue country). But one thing they DON'T mention is that countries with looser firearms laws have a FAR LOWER rate of violent crime in general. Given that the chances of being killed by another human is very very low (outside of war) should we not prioritise reducing violent attacks over murder?
Countries with strict firearms laws normally have higher violent crimes.
Countries with loose firearms laws do tend to have more gun crimes and murders but less violent crime enacted against the person. Banning things (guns, knife carrying, swords coshes and such) does NOT MAKE THEM GO AWAY! It simply puts them in the hands of people that are willing to break the law!
Lets Get To It!
Let me start by stating some statistics (crimes / (population / 100,000)):
2012 - 2013 UK Violent Incidents 1.9 Million (2968 per 100,000 population)
2012 - 2013 US Violent Incidents 1.1 Million (367 violent crimes per 100,000)
So, in the UK you stand 8 times more of a chance of being the victim of a violent crime than you do in the US, more on this later!
Self defense has very little to do with fighting skills, being able to kick the shit out of 10 ninja's is great but is it a real skill and does it make you safer? Not really, there is always someone tougher and stronger than you and anyway, Granny Nibbles down the road can hardly go through the strict physical training routine required to become a fully qualified ninja ass-kicker can she? So from the outset we really can knock the idea that training in self defense is a legitimate way for everyone to learn how to protect themselves. For the fit and young, yes it does help but for all others including those that don't have the time to invest in years of training, it's out of the question. So this leaves you and I in a very weak situation should we become one of the 1.9 million UK citizens that suffer a violent attack each year.
The basic rule I am trying to get across is DON'T GET IN TROUBLE IN THE FIRST PLACE!
Secondly we'll lay out some ground rules for normal self defense and you'll be suprised how easily they can be adhered to:
- Stay alert, keep your witts about your, keep your head on a swivel, pay attention to your surroundings!
- Avoid alcohol in public!
- Don't walk down the street staring down at your phone, if your phone is sooo important to you hold it up just below eye level so you can see the world around you!
- Avoid places that are dark or have a bad name already, stay in well lit areas!
- NEVER rely on other people comming to your aid!
- Don't play the victim (although this can be useful for a suprise attack)!
Here is another list that will help you to understand how to deal with a potential situation if all the above have failed (these rules can be used in all inter-personal conflicts including husband/boyfriend - wife/girlfriend, work pals and such):
- Don't insult.
- Don't challenge.
- Don't threaten.
Stay alert, keep your witts about your, keep your head on a swivel, pay attention to your surroundings:
Staying alert and being aware of your surroundings is the primo top notch piece of advice you can follow. By staying alert you can normally avoid a situation before it arrises. If you keep making eye contact with a drunk you might get the classic "you're staring at me" response, in this case if you notice more than normal eye contact move so you break the line of sight. If you hear loud voices aproaching down the street late at night dip into a shady spot and let them pass or change routes. If there is trouble in a pub, club or party....get out! Don't hang around for the trouble to walk up to you.
Avoid alcohol in public:
Alcohol is a destroyer of senses, reactions and reality. It can make you edgy, aggresive or just plain old stupid. If you are going to drink, only do it when you are going to spend the night where you are drinking! Walking home pissed at 3am is a sure fire way to find yourself in trouble before you even realise it. If you are out and drinking you will be surrounded by people that are not at their best. This increases the chance of trouble so when you are in a pub keep the alcohol to a minimum (I don't drink alcohol in public at all). If a situation arrises you are sober and will be able to deal with that situation much more safely than if you were drunk (drunk people hit really hard but they do it in slow motion).
Don't walk down the street staring down at your phone:
We've all seen these "zombies" as my 11 year old son calls them, they wander around with white headphones in their ears staring at their feet/phone the whole time. They are so pre-occupied with what ever they are doing you can just walk straight into them and they think they walked into you (yes, I've tried it). Don't be one of these people. If you have a call, message or fb post that is so important it can't wait until you get home STOP MOVING, CHECK YOUR SURROUNDINGS then make the call! A good theif/attacker can swipe your phone/attack and be off in the crowd before you or anyone around you even know what's happened.
Yes, it really is that easy bye bye £400!
Avoid dark places / places with a bad name:
To me this is just plain old common sense. Sadly, I don't really adhere to this particular rule but I am not someone that your average criminal will attack! I pose far too much of a visual risk for all but the dumbest muggers to want to attack. Stay away from area's full of drunks, leave the pub or club a bit early (especially on football nights) so you are not stuck having to deal with crowds of rowdy piss heads! Parts of your journey home may be through a literal "no go" area. We all know where they are, we all know they exsist. Don't walk somewhere that you feel nervous about. If you have no choice and you have to walk this path keep point 1 well and truly in mind (stay alert, keep your witts about your, keep your head on a swivel, pay attention to your surroundings). Check the shadows, look behind, use your ears AND eyes (no earphones).
Never rely on other people comming to help:
This is an important point, most violent crimes happen to an individual, one person on their own. Criminals will loiter in area's where they know individuals frequent and will even wait as targets pass until a more vunerable one appears. In the UK the average police response is 11.5 minutes (2014) one man with a knife killed 8 people and injured another 4 in Japan recently IN JUST 10 MINUTES. Even if you can call the police a lot can happen in 11 minutes, you might be lucky _if_ you actually manage to get the call out, you might have a car nearby but even if it does turn up it does not mean the police will actually help you. There are many horror stories of police standing by letting crimes be commited for fear of getting hurt or breaking health and safety laws. Don't rely on the crowd to step in and help you, in fact, there is a theory these days that there is an optimum number of people that will improve you chance of finding a "have a go hero". The more people there is the more chance
there is they will ALL be thinking "someone else will step in"!!!
Don't play the victim:
If you are drunk or in some way not "compos mentis" (drunk, sick, tired) and something happens to you it is YOUR FAULT. Recent media stories have highlighted a canal somewhere that has "claimed 7 lives in 2 years".. No, the canal is just a body of water, it was 7 peoples stupidity that claimed their lives. They where so drunk they walked along a canal path fell in and drowned. A footballer has been jailed for rape because the woman was "too drunk to consent". Seriously? I was too drunk to realise I was too drunk to drink and drive? I don't think that would get you off a DD charge! Not playing the victim means taking resonsibility for your actions, if you decide to walk down that dark alley and get mugged maybe the alley was a bad choice! Now, in an ideal world we should all be able to go about our business and NOT have to take these things into consideration. An ideal world it is not! Don't let your fear own you, it's fine to act scared and feel fear but keep it under control, use your breath to keep your mind under control. Acting more scared than you are can give you an advantage:
Bart: Remember when Tom had you in that headlock and you screamed, "I'm a hemophiliac!" and when he let you go, you kicked him in the back?
Bart: Will you teach me how to do that?
Homer: Sure, boy. First, you gotta shriek like a woman and keep sobbing until he turns away in disgust. That's when it's time to kick some back. And then when he's lying down on the ground...
Homer: Kick him in the ribs.
Homer: Step on his neck.
Homer: And run like hell.
If all else fails and you are stuck in a confrontation STAY CALM, you must stay as calm as you can otherwise you will not think straight, you will panic, you will lose your rationality. If they are after your money or your phone just give it to them. You are not living in a country where you have the upper hand by carrying a pistol in your pocket or purse! If you belive they are going to hurt you FIGHT, fight with every gram of your spirit and DON'T stop. They will realise you are not a soft target and flee. If you have someone following you STOP MOVING, CHECK YOUR SURROUNDINGS and wait, this puts you in control of the situation and as the person approaches smile and say "evening" or ask them the time!
Calling someone a wanker or telling them they are going to get hurt if they fuck with you is a sure fire way to put an attacker in a position they can't back down from. This is to be avoided at all cost. Criminals work or face. If they lose face they are made to seem weak and if you insult them they will HAVE to attack to save the loosing face!
"You don't want to fuck with me, I'll kick your arse!" Is again, not the way to deal with a confrontation. Criminals will see this as a challenge and willfully take you up on it. Are you experienced in the level of violence required to put off a determined attacker? No? Then avoid challenging any attackers.
"If you don't back off, I'll kick your arse!" Is again, not the way to deal with a confrontation. Most of these people are far more used to dealing with violence than you are and, unless you have hand to hand training you'll probably come off worse!
All in all stay calm, speak respectfully and try to back out of the situation without actually coming to blows!
UK US Comparison
In the United States the public have much more freedom to defend themselves and their property. Lots of US police forces even advise the public that they should "take care of yourself then we'll clean up the mess for you, we can't normally get there quick enough to help". At least they have the balls to admit that a lot can happen in the 11.5 minutes it takes for the cozzers to turn up! They use "any means necessary" to quantify how far you can go. If, as an American Citizen you find a burglar in your house you are fully within your rights to shoot him dead. Yes, you will still probably face a court case or, more commonly, a civil suit by the family of the burglar but the chances of you _gettig off_ are much higher. If a mugger attacks you on the street you are fully within your rights to use "any means necessary" to protect yourself upto and including death! Most violent incidents are brought to a swift end as soon as the attacker knows you are armed with a firearm because they don't want to risk getting shot for an iPhone and a hundred dollars even if they are carrying a firearm themselves!
As a comparison, in the United Kingdom you ALWAYS stand a change of being prosecuted for defending yourself. There are hundreds of stories out there that shine a somewhat depressing light on the fact that when the tables are turned on an attacker in the UK they run to the police, admit what they were doing and the defender ends up getting procecuted while the attacked walks free. I myself have suffered this exact situation which is why I feel so strongly about self-defense in the UK. I was attacked, in my home, by a local drug deal because he though I stole something from him. He and 3 of his friends kicked the door in and beat both my self and my younger brother up. We both got whacked with a hammer, my brother in the side of his head right next to his temple... We persued these guys down the street baseball and cricket bats in hand. We caught up with them at their abode and returned the favor...! The very next morning I had a visit from the police then spent 2 days in police cell only to be released without charge when they realised what had happend! In the UK most violent attacks are commited with a knife, in a knife mugging you are far more likely to be injured than a mugging with a firearm. A single slash or stab from a knife is rarely fatal, a single bullet from a fireare, even a lowly .22, can be lethal. So a criminal with a knife my well take a light stab or slash to show you they mean business.
OK, so, you think you might be in a bit of a pickle and your heart is racing, your head is pounding and you are in true fight or flight mode. This means you are one step short of making irrational decisions and you need to calm your self. Take control of those sporadic breaths and start to even them out... 3 seconds to inhale, hold for 2 seconds, 5 seconds to exhale. Repeat this proccess until you have got your breathing back under control, once you realise you have your breath under control you'll also notice that your mind is clearer and your heart has slowed down to. Now you can think rationally!
Foot Notes and Images
I am 6"3', 200lbs (14 stone) I can reach about 5 inches further than most people, I come from a large family of brothers (1 younger, 4 older) so I'm used to being beaten up by people much more powerful than I. With constant beatings from my older brothers for eating all the cookies or cakes I have a much higher pain tolerance than most people.. If, in true criminal style, I go out with the intention to attack the weakest person I come across I WILL get what I want unless that person is well trained in some form of hand to hand combat OR they are armed. I spent the early part of my adult life dealing with the kind of people most of us do our best to avoid. Yes, I am an ex con, I've been to jail a couple of times and I know how to talk the talk AND walk the walk when it comes to these kinds of situations!