COMMENTING on a case in Johor, senior criminal lawyer Salim Bashir Bhaskaran said: “If despite knowing that a person could have defused an act of crime without causing harm, but still used excessive force and causing the death of the criminal, it would no longer be considered as self-defence”. Very easy in theory, but just how does it work in real life?
How many lawyers, if surprised or shocked by intruders, will consider the options available for self-defence, and settle on one that is not excessive so that the intruders are not harmed more than reasonably necessary?
While contemplating “reasonable” and “not excessive force”, will the intruders wait for the lawyers to decide their self-defence move?
When a person embarks on a crime, he forfeits his rights to his safety and life. So, why should the law, and lawyers, defend his “forfeited rights”?
It is not a question whether the robber had a screwdriver (as in the reported case), a knife, a gun or bare hands, for even bare hands can be lethal.
The victim acts instinctively and he has no wilful control over this. Criminals enter people’s houses to commit a crime, with the intention to do whatever is necessary to commit the crime.
The thief plans his mission in advance. He prepares himself, he arms himself, he chooses the time and place to commit the crime.
The victim, on the other hand, plans nothing against the criminal. He defends himself to the best of his ability. In the process, he may get killed, injured or maimed.
In how many such cases have the thieves or intruders been charged with murder?
Survival instinct takes over when one is in danger. How do you tell your instinct to defuse an act of crime without causing harm, or using excessive force that might cause the death of the criminal?
One victim may just freeze and be helpless, another may hide or escape, and another may confront the intruder with anything that comes to his hand quickly.
There is no time to consider the option that will not cause more than “reasonable” harm to the intruders.
So, legalistic talk about “fine line between committing murder and acting in self-defence” is absurd.
The “fine-line” argument can apply only in cases of crime victims whose reflexes have been trained to react in particular ways under particular circumstances.
The minds and reflexes of these people have been trained, and undergo regular “revisions”, to know what is “excessive force” and how much and what kind of force to apply in a given situation.
Even policemen are not capable of this, as can be seen in the case of Aminulrasyid Amzah, 14, who was shot to death by policemen in Shah Alam in 2010, and a few others where they used excessive force.
So, how can the public be expected to know and exercise “sufficient or reasonable” force?
The law should be amended to give full protection to people exercising self-defence. This is one way of fighting crime.
Ravinder Singh, Penang