Not only a problem here in the USA but apparently Canada as well.
Act of heroism exposes Canada’s ‘arcane’ and ‘contradictory’ self-defence laws
National Post: On a rainy day in May 2010, Joe and Marilyn Singleton returned from dinner to their rural acreage near Taber, Alta. The couple usually left the lights off to save energy. But on this night, the lights were on and a dilapidated station wagon was in the driveway. Mr. Singleton parked behind it and headed through the garage, grabbing a small hatchet used to chop kindling on his way in.
Inside, the house had been trashed — furniture knocked over, dishes smashed, pictures torn off the wall; jewellery, cash and video games were missing. Mr. Singleton left his wife to call 911 and headed out into the driveway, where a burglar was trying to flee in the station wagon.
“I told him to sit there, the police are coming, we’ll sort it out,” he recalled in his first public interview. “That’s when he put his car in reverse and smashed into our car. Then he put the car into drive and it was then I thought, my God he’s going to smash into the garage door to get away and my wife was right on the other side.”
He reached into the open driver’s side window and hit the man twice in the face with the blunt end of the hatchet. The thief ran and got tangled up in a barbed-wire fence. When the RCMP arrived 20 minutes later, they intercepted two more thieves who had gone to get a pickup truck because their car was too small to carry away all the stolen loot.
If this was Hollywood, this is where Mr. Singleton’s story likely would have ended. But in a tale that has become a familiar real-life refrain, the injured thief, a 19-year-old repeat offender who was out on bail after threatening another homeowner with a crowbar, received house arrest for the burglary.
Mr. Singleton, whose only run-in with the law was a speeding ticket six years earlier, was charged with assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm, offences that carry up to 10 years in prison. Crown prosecutors alleged he didn’t meet the definition of citizen’s arrest because he hadn’t stopped the thief while he was stealing his belongings, but while he was trying to flee.
He didn’t meet the definition of self-defence because he had provoked the thief by confronting him, rather than letting him drive off, and was therefore not allowed to use force to stop him.
Cases like this highlight what lawyers, police, judges and legal scholars have argued for decades: Canada’s self-defence laws are so complex they confuse judges and juries, not to mention a panicked property owner trying to decide how to stop an intruder without breaking the law.
Even when homeowners are cleared by courts for defending their property, they have usually had to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees. Mr. Singleton spent his retirement savings of nearly $30,000 this way. For Mr. Singleton, the financial consequences were severe, but the moral implication of the law are more profound. “It’s teaching us not to trust the police. It’s teaching us to lie to them,” he said. It changes people’s perception of what is right and wrong.”
“If someone breaks into your home, and they’re sitting on top of another person stabbing them, no one is going to debate that one,” said Edmonton Police Acting Superintendent Greg Preston. But “is it reasonable to take a hatchet and whack them when they come through the door? It’s not so easy.” But Canadian laws still require homeowners to prove they are acting reasonably when they injure or kill an intruder.
Read the rest of the story here.
Let me get this correct – In order to stop a burglar that has broken the law and one that is in the process of maybe harming a loved one, I need to determine if I can do that properly without breaking the law? Forget that, just take care of business and drag ’em back inside. Remember – when seconds count, the police are minutes away.