Preda­tors turn prey, jus­ti­fi­able homi­cide ex­plained

A homi­cide is the killing of one hu­man by an­other. The stan­dard of a civ­i­lized so­ci­ety re­quires that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion is con­ducted when­ever a homi­cide oc­curs. The pur­pose of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion should be to dis­cover the cause of death of the de­ceased and th

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Lex Ne­gus

On car­ni­val Fri­day three young men de­cided that the best way for them to gen­er­ate some much needed rev­enue would be for them to rob an un­sus­pect­ing cit­i­zen near Ge­orge V Park in Cas­tries. Un­for­tu­nately for them the per­son who they de­cided to rob was an armed po­lice­man. The out­come of their fool­ish de­ci­sion is well known. A young man is dead and the masses cheer; “Death to rob­bers” is the chant. Peo­ple in so­ci­ety went so far as to call for the death of his ac­com­plices claim­ing that the of­fi­cer would have been jus­ti­fied in so do­ing, act­ing un­der the guise of self­de­fence.

Both our so­ci­ety’s frus­tra­tion with crime on our small is­land and the depth of our mis­un­der­stand­ing of the law on self-de­fence have been brought to the fore fol­low­ing this in­ci­dent. The three men seem to have been found guilty in the courts of pub­lic opin­ion and all sen­tenced to death. We have to ask our­selves as a so­ci­ety, are we pre­pared to ac­cept a brand of vig­i­lante jus­tice which al­lows for al­leged ban­dits to be shot in the streets on lit­tle more than an al­le­ga­tion of wrong­do­ing? We must re­mind our­selves that de­spite the young man’s al­leged ac­tions on the day, he has fam­ily mem­bers and friends who would like to en­sure that he re­ceives jus­tice and that the ac­tions of the per­son(s) re­spon­si­ble for his death were in ac­cor­dance with the law.

A homi­cide is the killing of one hu­man by an­other. The stan­dard of a civ­i­lized so­ci­ety re­quires that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion is con­ducted when­ever a homi­cide oc­curs. The pur­pose of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion should be to dis­cover the cause of death of the de­ceased and the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing his/ her death.

A homi­cide, very gen­er­ally speak­ing, is an of­fence in law and if com­mit­ted with the in­ten­tion of killing or caus­ing griev­ous bod­ily harm, is known as mur­der. A homi­cide which is com­mit­ted with­out the in­ten­tion to cause griev­ous bod­ily harm but with some lesser level of cul­pa­bil­ity, for ex­am­ple neg­li­gence or reck­less­ness, can fall into the cat­e­gory of man­slaugh­ter.

A homi­cide may be jus­ti­fied and deemed a law­ful act where the per­pe­tra­tor has acted in self-de­fence.

Sec­tion 34 of the Crim­i­nal Code states: “A per­son may use such force as is rea­son­able in the cir­cum­stances - (a) to pre­vent crime; (b) to pro­tect him­self or her­self or an­other per­son from in­jury; (c) to pro­tect him­self or her­self or an­other per­son (with his or her author­ity) from tres­pass to him­self or her­self or the other per­son; (d) to pro­tect from in­jury or dam­age his or her prop­erty or prop­erty be­long­ing to an­other per­son with that per­son’s author­ity.”

Look­ing at the sec­tion and know­ing the facts it is clear that the of­fi­cer had the author­ity un­der law to use force, but the sec­tion lim­its that force to only what is rea­son­able.

The prin­ci­ples on which the law re­gard­ing self-de­fence are based, are found in the case of Palmer v R [1971] AC 814. In that case the Court said: 1) a per­son who is at­tacked is en­ti­tled to de­fend him­self; 2) in de­fend­ing him­self a per­son may do what is rea­son­ably nec­es­sary, how­ever; 3) the de­fence must not be out of pro­por­tion to the at­tack; 4) in a mo­ment of cri­sis, a per­son may not be able to weigh to a nicety the ex­act mea­sure of his nec­es­sary de­fen­sive ac­tion; 5) in a mo­ment of an­guish, a per­son may do what he hon­estly and in­stinc­tively thought was nec­es­sary.

Hav­ing re­gard to the prin­ci­ples laid down in the Palmer case, and ap­ply­ing the rudi­men­tary knowl­edge of self-de­fence gained there­from to our in­ci­dent in Ge­orge V Park, cer­tain ques­tions nat­u­rally arise and they all sur­round the cir­cum­stances of the al­leged rob­bery. The first one which comes to mind is: was the of­fi­cer un­der at­tack? And, if so, was the force ap­plied rea­son­able? Both of those ques­tions are grounded in fact and can only be de­ter­mined af­ter lis­ten­ing to the ac­counts of per­sons who wit­nessed the in­ci­dent. This is some­times done in an in­quest.

Did the of­fi­cer at­tempt to ar­rest the rob­bers and was rea­son­able force used? Un­der sec­tion 30 of our Crim­i­nal Code: (1) A per­son may - a. with or with­out war­rant or other le­gal process, ar­rest and de­tain an­other per­son whom he or she knows to have com­mit­ted an in­dictable of­fence; b. if the other per­son, hav­ing no­tice or know­ing that he or she is ac­cused of an in­dictable of­fence, avoids ar­rest by re­sis­tance or flight or es­capes or en­deav­ours to es­cape from cus­tody,

use any force which is nec­es­sary for the ar­rest, de­ten­tion or re­cap­ture, and may kill that other per­son if that other per­son can­not oth­er­wise be ar­rested, de­tained, or re­taken by any other means.

This sec­tion goes fur­ther than sec­tion 34 (above) and gives ex­plicit author­ity to use lethal force if nec­es­sary when ef­fect­ing ar­rest and only where there is no other op­tion. Again, what is nec­es­sary would de­pend on the cir­cum­stances.

With­out a com­plete and trans­par­ent in­quiry into the mat­ter the fam­ily and friends of the de­ceased may not re­ceive clo­sure and may, in ex­change, har­bour ill will to­ward the po­lice. An in­quiry would also send the mes­sage to the pub­lic that the use of force must al­ways be rea­son­able and nec­es­sary.

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