How to be a social media maven and guru, killing burglars and other matters…

Serious lawyer and excellent twitterer @brianInkster, who runs his own successful law firm out of  offices in  Glasgow, wrote a review of a book written by an American lawyer on how lawyers could use twitter.  I haven’t read the book and, as Sir Maurice Bowra used to say, I shall lose no time in doing so.   There is a wealth of FREE material out there (and some of it written by very good US law bloggers) and I was most amused to find that this book is ‘out of stock’ on Amazon at the wonderful price of £145 for some 77 pages – or £2 a page for those ‘time poor lawyers’ as another well known lawyer tweeter/twitter observed. US lawyer Scott Greenfield summed it up neatly

@BrianInkster If he had a clue, maybe he could get a job instead of selling snake oil twitter to lawyers incapable of twitting on their own.

I have absolutely no idea how to be a social media maven or guru or, indeed, how to ‘use’ twitter ‘properly’, let alone for personal profit.  I have no intention of learning how to do so.

Moving on…

It is election time,  so Chris Grayling and Alan Johnson are falling over each other in an attempt to show the hang ‘em, flog ‘em brigade in Britain that they can talk tough. The trouble is… talking tough often equates to talking complete and utter nonsense – rather as pissed up yobs do at each other on a Saturday night before getting carted off in a Police van.

All this rather foolish posturing follows on from the Hussain case. The Times reports: ” Last week Hussain was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm with intent after he and his brother used a cricket bat to beat one of the intruders who broke into his home in Buckinghamshire. Judge John Reddihough acknowledged that the family had been subjected to a “serious and wicked offence”, but said Hussain had carried out a “dreadful, violent attack” on the intruder as he lay defenceless.

See also: Jail for ‘courageous’ Munir Hussain who beat intruder with cricket bat

While I can commend anyone for defending themselves in their own home (and the law already permits this – (infra)) chasing a burglar down the street and then beating him senseless with a cricket bat goes beyond reasonable force.  The rule of law is best left to the Police in such matters, however imperfect they are on occasion. We don’t really want to see summary justice meted out by victims of crime.

The Times points out that Mr Grayling, Shadow Home Secretary, has modified his stance and the Tories deny that that they are planning a ‘licence for householders to kill burglars’.  Mr Grayling seems to do a fair amount of engaging mouth before brain. This may be why he has risen to the dizzying heights of Shadow Home Secretary – it seems to be a requirement for Home Secretaries of all political persuasions in recent years – so I am not singling Mr Grayling out.

I am not a criminal lawyer, but fortunately the Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association is a criminal lawyer…and is sane.

The Times notes: “Paul Mendel, the chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, told the BBC that people could already use “reasonable force” under the law. A jury would take into account the emotional stress someone acted under when discovering a burglar in the home, he said, and suggested moving the bar to anything up to “grossly disproportionate” might be too high.

He added: “The statute that we presently have allows the force to be proportionate which, I would have thought, is what most people would require the force to be. It’s a case of what’s proportionate and only the judge can make the decision. He did have discretion to come down in favour of householder.”

I would also like to commend an article in the Guardian written by a friend of mine, Carl Gardner, who invariably both talks and writes sense: On self-defence, let’s trust the courts

Carl Gardner writes: “But Grayling’s solution is too blunt. The answer may not be for politicians to put forward yet more criminal law reform to endlessly refine, clarify and redefine, while obliging judges to deliver ever more convoluted directions to juries. Perhaps we should simply trust those who have heard all the evidence to judge what is and is not reasonable.”

Carl Gardner also writes the excellent Head of legal blog

13 thoughts on “How to be a social media maven and guru, killing burglars and other matters…

  1. err,

    1) the law doesn’t need changing. It’s not rocket science that it’s not “self-defence” when the perp is running away – it’s revenge. Revenge is not a defence in law. ‘cept maybe in Texas where Joe Horn was acquitted of shooting run-away burglars in the back.

    2) people are fed up with Labour – but the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.

  2. There are stacks of free resources which are available to help lawyers get started on Twitter… and the lawyers and others I follow and chat to on Twitter are always willing to help out if asked.

    I think the key is attitude though… if you appreciate that you need to listen before you jump in, and engage with people rather than selling then you won’t go too far wrong. If you get this right then the technical side (which isn’t that hard anyway) won’t be a problem.

    However, anyone who needs a book to tell them this isn’t going to get far with Twitter or any other social networking channel. You can have all the technical expertise in the world, but if you tweet AT people in “business development” mode they will soon switch off.

    Save your money and invest in Cash Management for Law Firms instead – available from the same publisher for £295 & P&P (http://bit.ly/isntitironic)… I did tweet about this yesterday, but the irony still tickles me!

  3. Thank god i’m not the only one who thinks that the whole political / media furore about the Hussain case is just way off the mark. What’s reasonable or proportionate (or whatever other term you want to use) about chasing someone down the street (having roped in a chum and stopped to grab a weapon) and beating them senseless? To use this as an example of householders being placed wrongly at risk of prosecution for simply defending themselves in their homes is just crazy.

  4. Familoo – I am always amused by the views of politicians at election time…. but those charged with the Law & Order election pantomime do tend to take the Widow Twankey role rather too seriously.

    I am told, by those who practise daily before the criminal courts, that ‘reasonable force’ is a fairly wide concept but does not include (a) shooting people in the back or (b) chasing people down the street to beat them senseless.

    The tabloid newspapers, if we are honest, don’t actually give a monkeys about the law – they just enjoy pandering to or whipping up their readers – and the politicians rise like trout to a fly to the bait – to make themselves look ever more absurd.

    I do think householders are entitled to protect themselves and their families – but as the Chairman of The Criminal Bar Association said – the law seems to do that just fine at present.

    Police and CPS do, I am advised, look at these cases fairly closely.

    I think the trial judge here got it right. Hussain was not ‘courageoeus’. he behaved like a vigilante – and he must, sadly perhaps in the circumstances, pay that price for allowing the protective urge to give way to the ‘vengeance’ urge.

    It may be that many would have behaved in this way – but the wider principle that self defence (including family or friends) and ‘meting out punishment’ must be separated is important.

  5. hen even the evening standard thinks the right to murder burglars is a bit much you know it has to be a grand tory plan! this is the next government, chaps. i always think that whatever harm a labour government does the country is dwarfed by its crime in allowing those bastards back in next time.

  6. I find it hard to comment on the Hussain case because the facts don’t seem to be reported very well. The linked article in The Times says that Hussain chased the intruders down the street, whereas The Telegraph says the intruders were cornered in Hussain’s neighbours’ front garden. The Times says that Salem was hit by a cricket bat so hard that the bat broke into three pieces – I find this extremely hard to believe. Have you ever tried to break a piece of wood, let alone a cricket bat by striking something with it? And if it did break, how would it break in three pieces? Neighbours saw several men beating Salem, it is reported, however the newspapers only report the sentencing of Hussain and his brother. Were these other men sentenced? How do we know who inflicted the injuries on Salem?

    All in all the reporting of this case leaves much to be desired.

  7. Charonqc – despite the erratic reporting I think it seems that the Hussain’s actions were not to avoid an immediate threat.

    However there is a difference between revenge and acting wrongly in the heat of the moment. According to reports, Hussain’s family had been threatened with death, Hussain had been beaten and Hussain had just escaped. He would have been hyped and pumped full of adrenalin and would not have been acting rationally when he caught Salem. Taking disproportionate action in such a situation, though still wrong, is understandable.

    Reading between the lines, I think the reason that Hussain’s sentence was custodial and not suspended was because he did not express any regret at his actions. Had he said that he knew what he did was wrong, but that he was acting irrationally and in the heat of the moment he probably would have got a suspended sentence.

    I certainly don’t believe that there is any cause to change the law. Nor do I believe there is any reason to further restrict the discretion of judges – indeed I think they have too many restrictions on their discretion already.

  8. Trying to obviously flare up some passionate heat from the voters who think that Labour are not tough enough on crime.

    In any event any force which isn’t “grossly disproportionate” is certainly even more vague than “reasonable force”..

    Shooting someone in the back, or beating them with a cricket back would surely come under “grossly disproportionate” and if this new definition was laid down in statute it would only lead to more complex directions to the jury, more confusion and more cost..

    Stuart

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