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Daily View: Munir Hussain freed

Clare Spencer | 09:14 UK time, Thursday, 21 January 2010

Munir HussainBusinessman Munir Hussain, who was jailed for permanently injuring an intruder who attacked him and his family, has been freed with a reduced sentence by the Court of Appeal. Commentators discuss where we stand with the laws on self-defence.

The Telegraph editorial says the outcome of Munir Hussain's case shows the difference between the law and justice:

"The Appeal Court's decision does not change the law on self-defence, nor give the green light to revenge attacks. But we trust it sends a clear message to the police and prosecutors that they should be careful in future before beginning a process that criminalises the victim - a trend that has done as much as anything in recent years to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice."

Also in the Telegraph Philip Johnston calls the Court of Appeal's decision "hugely sensible":

"Without pandering to mob law or vigilantism, the Lord Chief Justice has shown that the senior judiciary does not always have to seem remote from the wishes of the people on whose behalf they dispense justice."

The Times editorial welcomes the decision to reduce Munir Hussain's sentence, but called the judiciary out-of-step with the society it serves for convicting Frances Inglis of murder after giving her severely brain-damaged son a lethal dose of heroin. The editorial gives a warning about when judges decisions go against public opinion:

"When judges fail, the public starts judging judges. When this happens, the politicians step in. This is rarely good. When politicians attempt to draft laws in direct response to public uproar, their efforts are generally cack-handed and unenforceable, if not downright unwise."

James Slack in the Daily Mail urges a change in the law:

"So the sympathy is undoubtedly there. Police, politicians and the judiciary all appear to have sensed the public mood in relation to good Samaritans is hardening.
Now it is up to Parliament to pass a law which ensures the public - and not the criminal - is first in the queue for legal protection."

In a podcast, the Guardian's legal affairs correspondent Afua Hirsch warns against making large conclusions about the state of the law based on this very unusual case:

"There's this hysteria at the moment about the rights of householders to defend themselves... I think there's so much misunderstanding about the law. The law in this area works quite well and if you are a homeowner who is acting reasonably to defend yourself, you won't be prosecuted... Here, we're looking at a minority of cases which have very unusual facts. Unfortunately sweeping conclusions on the state of the law have been based on those."

On the Today Programme, Michael Wolkind QC said even though he defended Munir Hussain, he does not agree with Conservative proposals to further protect people who act in self-defence:

"The test at the moment is that the defendant behaved reasonably and that should be good enough."

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Links in full

TimesTimes | Judging the Judges
MailJames Slack | Daily Mail | The sympathy is there, now change the law
TelegraphTelegraph | The Appeal Court has seen that justice is done
TelegraphPhilip Johnston | Telegraph | Munir Hussain freed: well done Lord Chief Justice
GuardianDeborah Orr | Guardian | A life sentence for Frances Inglis makes no sense
MailDaily Mail | Common sense and true British justice
GuardianGuardian | Guardian Daily Podcast
BBCMichael Wolkind | BBC Today programme

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