06 April 2008

Rats in the park #2

A follow up

Suzi-k and I like walking around the neighbourhood. We enjoy each others company and are never without our cameras. Unfortunately, it is a sad reality of life in this country that some opportunistic criminal will, if given half a chance, try and part you with your possessions. The only reason that we do take our walks, is because we are able to carry some form of protection with us – like pepper spray or my trusty walking stick. Without that we would not feel safe.

Grandpa's walking stick. A genuine Zimbabwean piece of craftsmanship bought at Mbare Market in Harare, which I believe is still going strong, despite Mugabe's best efforts to shut it down.

Our concern is that the Government now wants to a pass law that will outlaw the carrying of pepper spray and other non lethal weapons. As it is our rights to self defence are extremely limited – where will the removal of that one leave us?..

Grandpa's walking stick unsheathed and ready for "action". Suddenly the intended victim will not be so attractive.

I do not go out looking for trouble, but if it happens to come my way, then I want to be able to respond accordingly.

Since writing “Rats in the Park” last week I have an answer to some of my queries regarding self defence. In an article, “When is it legal to shoot a criminal”, in the Algoa Sun of 3 April 2008 a local firearms dealer said there are circumstances when this is possible.

Our courts have apparently established stringent guidelines in this regard. What they apparently look at is the question of legal justification. That is whether the individual acted in self defence or private defence.

Self defence is when you protect yourself, whereas private defence, allows you to defend and protect someone in whom you have a legal interest, such as your child or your spouse, or any other person you choose to place under your protection.”
The article goes to say that, “You may only use lethal force if there is an attack against either you, or a third party whom you are trying to protect from such attack, and that attack is unlawful, which means simply not allowed by law. The attack must be against the person, a threat to human life and NOT to the removal or destruction of property. The attack must be imminent (about to happen or immediate (already have started).”

Interesting! I may have to research this one some more. It begs the question, if some knife wielding thug demands my wallet and cell phone, is this “an attack” on me or just “the removal” of my property? Given the fact that more than one person has been murdered for a cell phone I will take it as an “immediate attack” on my person and react accordingly.

This is where it starts to get tricky.

“In acting to defend such person’s life, your defence must be absolutely necessary to prevent or stop the attack”. Oh dear, so that means an elderly gentleman beating a retreating burglar with a broom, according to our law is not acting in self defence. I must admit it gave me a perverse sense of pleasure. The burglar of course will never lay a charge, because according to him, he was never there. See here, here and here for previous posts on the burglary.

This weekend I decided to beat the ban and stock up on pepper spray, which is seen here with "Harry", my pepper gun and a selection of ammo (see Pepper Ammo.com): the hancuffs, which I acquired over 30 years ago during the Zimbabwe bush war: a collection of pocket knives (I have carried one all my life).

But that is not all……..“There must be no other way of avoiding the attack, if you can avoid the use of force, you have a legal obligation to do so. The force used to repel or stop the attack must be reasonable under the circumstances”. To my way of thinking a burst of pepper spray in the attackers face is more than “reasonable”. I saw the effect of that on our burglar. It was like he had been pole axed, by the guy from the armed response company.
This is now the best part, “The law requires that if you can avoid a confrontation, you must take reasonable steps to do so – for example, by leaving the scene, if escape is possible.
If you do not try to escape, when it is possible, it may be argued that you contributed towards the confrontation and therefore your actions in using force were not legally justifiable.”
Yeah right. If we turn tail and run we will likely have a knife in stuck in our back in no time at all. Yes, we can take evasive action, like we demonstrated last week. But what if we can’t?

Realistically, what chance does an unarmed couple in their fifty’s have against several armed twenty-something thugs, intent on doing grievous bodily harm. I would rather have the right to defend myself with a non lethal weapon like pepper spray, than with a firearm.

I have dealt with this subject simplistically, from the point of view of someone who just wants to go out and enjoy life in a crime riddled environment. If the police are not able to protect me and my family, then at least don’t take that right away from me.


Gemma said...

Hi MaxE,
Obviously the criminals aren't concerned with the letter of the law. Protecting yours and loved ones lives is most important regardless of laws.
Hey I've missed you at ABC Wednesday...but stopped by now to see how its going in your part of the world.

Old Wom Tigley said...

I just hope you never ever have to resort to using them... but if you do then do it quick and without thought.. that way it will save you..
What a post and an eye opener this as been

Neva said...

I too stopped by for ABC but I stop occasionally anyway! love this post....I am all for having our rights protected....that is just nonsense about the burglars...I will bat with my bat and hope for the best...I will go down fighting ...so there!

Max-e said...

Gemma thank's for stopping by. I enjoyed Wednesday ABC, but the pace has picked up quite a bit work wise, so I do not get much time for all the visits.
Btw, this is one law I intend to break - I am afraid the safety of my family comes first - so if it turns me into a "criminal" if I carry pepper spray then so be it

Max-e said...

Tom, I also hope I never have to use it, but it will give me a perverse pleasure to do so.
Thanks for the advice.

Max-e said...

Neva, I like your attitude - they are a bunch of bullies and will generally back down when confronted with stern opposition.
When things calm don I will probably do some ABC posts again. Thanks for the comments.