I was thinking of writing something about the death of the burglar in south London, killed by 78-year-old Richard Osborne-Brooks. But Stephen Bush in the New Statesman has saved me the bother.
“Good morning. The death of Harry Vincent, killed by 78-year-old pensioner Richard Osborn-Brooks, has taken on a political dimension after the Justice Secretary, David Gauke, said that people should feel to defend themselves in their own homes. (Osborn-Brooks has been arrested and charged. The Sun is running a petition calling for the charges to be dropped.)
“Of course, the truth is that homeowners – and renters too for that matter – are allowed to defend themselves provided they use “reasonable force”. And, of course, if I phone up the police, tell them I have killed someone in my flat but they were breaking in, for obvious reasons, the police have to investigate rather than take my word for it.
“Don’t forget that Tony Martin, the farmer who shot and killed a burglar in 2000, the last time this issue was on the political agenda, told the police that he had fired in self-defence but a jury found that he had laid in wait for the robbers and fired without warning.
“In this case, if it turns out that Osborn-Brooks’ account of events is true, the charges will likely be dropped – not because of a petition in a tabloid newspaper but because that’s how the law works, though I doubt that will stop the Sun from declaring victory should that happen.
“We hear a lot about fake news, as if this were a problem that cropped up only in the 2016 and 2017 elections. There is a real problem with news stories that have at best a sketchy relationship with the truth being spread by new blogs on the Internet. But there is also a real problem of news stories that have at best a sketchy relationship wit the truth being spread by old newspapers on the Internet and in print.
How disappointing that Gauke couldn’t do what a Lord Chancellor should, and explain how and why the law works, rather than bending in the wind with the tabloid mood.”