As Londoners take to defending their own lives, property and communities, it seems the state is failing in its first duty: to defend life, liberty and property. A good number of my constituents have written — dismayed by the shameful, reckless behaviour they have seen on TV — demanding that tougher action be taken with rioters.
My understanding of the law (and I am not a lawyer) is that “A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime, or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or of persons unlawfully at large.” I also understand that defendants at trial cannot determine if the force they used was reasonable, since of course they will always think it was.
That raises at least two important questions:
- What would be a reasonable use of force by a property owner in defence of their property or their neighbours’, in a riot?
- In a riot, what constitutes reasonable force by the police in the prevention of crime?
It seems little has been said about the former and that there is too much caution about the latter. To use high-pressure hoses and rubber bullets is a serious decision, but I am quite certain it is not one which requires the consent of rioters…
We are far from bringing back the Riot Act, but I hope tomorrow in Parliament we establish that the state’s duty is to protect the law-abiding and their property first and foremost and that the police do not require the consent of rioters before acting with reasonable force.