Give me your lunch money

Magna Carta

I never had anyone try to take my lunch money but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have an opinion: bullying is fundamentally wrong.  In a civilised society we view making an unreasonable demand as, well, unreasonable, possibly as they usually have an unpalatable attached threat.

My original example may be restated as “give me your lunch money or I’ll hurt you” – a demand with a threatening alternative – the victim has to pay up, fight, or face violence (and the probable loss of the lunch money anyway).  When we grow up the law intervenes and the same example might be considered as “demanding money with menaces”, and with a different threat could become blackmail.

But as adults in a reasonable and fair society we have recourse to the police and the courts: protection from the former and societal punishment to the wrongdoer from the latter.  We have a reasonable framework where we are (in most cases) innocent until proven guilty, if necessary by a jury of our peers – a right which has been enshrined in our laws since the 12th of June, 1215.

But a news story today caused me to ask the question: is this right? One of our citizens is being extradited without any court hearing in the UK. A foreign government has said “we want him” and we have meekly said “ok”.  And we’ve done this because we agreed to a treaty in 2003.  It’s not even as if the treaty is reciprocal.

This isn’t the first such case and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

I don’t know why we (the UK) signed the treaty, but I believe that it is fundamentally flawed.  There’s no equivalent treaty with any other countries, and indeed France will never hand over any of its citizens for extradition. I don’t blame the Americans for using the treaty – but I do think our politicians got it wrong and need to stand up for themselves and seek reciprocity.  If we don’t then I am ashamed to say that we are the weak kid in the playground.

(Image from Wikipedia and is not subject to copyright.)

Self-defence, shooting burglars, and sexual harassment

BurglarA headline caught my eye recently: “No charges for Oklahoma teen mother who called 911 to ask permission to kill burglar“.  The story is about a woman who called police to ask if she could shoot an intruder if he entered her home. He entered; she killed him with a shotgun.  In a country where gun ownership is prevalent, and in some communities even encouraged, you would think that would be a deterrent to burglars and other intruders.  But with 215 justifiable homicides in 2009, it would seem not.

But what is a deterrent? The death penalty? Abolition of hanging in the UK didn’t appreciably increase the murder rate, and death row is overflowing in the USA.

Perhaps people living in a great environment are less inclined towards crime? The government of the Seychelles would disagree,

Fear of being caught maybe? Anecdotal evidence suggests that, rather like Norman Stanley Fletcher, imprisonment is simply viewed as an occupational hazard – and for some even an educational opportunity.

So, if there is no adequate deterrent, should we be allowed to shoot burglars – or, in the UK where we can’t own guns, perhaps politely berate them with golf club? Continue reading