Reader Gabriel C. writes:
TTAG regularly features articles and commentary pointing out the poor situation for gun owners in the UK, and criticising British self defence laws.
While Mr. Kenneth Hugill’s case is an unusual one (DGUs are very rare in the UK, at least in part due to the low rate of gun ownership), cases such as this show that the legal system isn’t always determined to crucify those who use force in legitimate defence of property and self.
The laws on self defence in the UK are of course open to criticism, but are not as dire as some TTAG readers believe. In outline, there is a triple-lock test for whether the use of force can be justified. Any use of force must be:
(b) reasonable, and
What this means in practice is that:
(a) whatever force is used should be the minimum necessary to prevent harm;
(b) it must be in a situation where “a reasonable person” would believe that the use of force was necessary to prevent the harm and no other means existed; and
(c) the force used should be proportionate to the harm that would otherwise occur (eg. beating on somebody for using rude language is not justified, but using deadly force against apprehended deadly force is justified).
As a gun-owning Brit, one who works in armed security in hostile environments overseas, I am very sympathetic to TTAG’s critiquing the laws around gun ownership in the UK.
I also agree that there is a serious problem with laws that prohibit the ownership of any kind of weapon for the purpose of self defence: self evidently this disadvantages the law-abiding, who may be facing an armed criminal.
But this case shows that a legally owned firearm is used in a legitimate DGU, the legal system is capable of recognising the facts.
There is a high standard to be met when using force in self defence, but that is not in itself a bad thing. In essence it mandates the use of force as an absolute last resort – something with which any responsible gun owner would likely agree.
I’m delighted that Mr. Hugill was acquitted, and wish him well for the future. And for the US People of the Gun, at least this is one example of the British system getting it right in the end. While he should not have had to face the stress of being charged in the first place, at least a jury of his peers recognised that his actions were justified in law and in common sense.
Be thankful for your Second Amendment, and spare a thought for citizens of other countries who do not enjoy the same rights as you!