The English criminal law offers the defense of self-defense against harms and murders that are committed in self-preservation. Self-defense in the constitution provides a person with the right to undertake actions that would be unlawful under the ordinary circumstances in an effort to preserve their physical integrity, the integrity of others, or to prevent another person from committing a crime. Self-defense is an absolute defense in various levels of assault and can be used to reduce a sentence for murder to manslaughter. However, there are restrictions to the defense. The first restrictions tries to consider whether another person in a similar situation, would have believed that they were or the persons they were protecting were in grave danger, and the second is whether the action was the only reasonable option available. The common law principles of self-defense are outlined in Beckford v R (1988) 1 AC 130 (Anthony and Ralph 12). The Rayna Ross Stalking Case is a good example of self-defense. After a few days of buying a handgun, Rayna Ross shot and killed a stalker on June 29, 1993; the stalker had attacked her repeatedly (Wyld). The constitution guarantees human life; however, the primary goal of self-defense should be to protect a person from punishment if they commit murder or harm a person in the process of self-preservation.
The Law should not punish murder in Self-Defense
A person who is arrested for committing a criminal offense such as murder should not be prosecuted for the crime if they are in a position to prove that their use of force was justified. If a person can justify that they committed grievous assault or even murder in self-defense, they should not be prosecuted. The constitution provides that a person can use maximum force against another person if they believe that the situation necessitates the use of force to defend himself or herself against another person's imminent use of force (Anthony and Ralph 16). Additionally, the constitution allows a person to use deadly force if they reasonably believe that their use of force is warranted in preventing an imminent death of themselves or that of another person (Lippman 86). A person is also allowed to use maximum force in order to prevent the execution of a forcible felony. A person is not required to wait until the reprobate uses maximum force or commits the felony. If a person reasonably believes that another person has the intention of using force or committing a felony; he or she has preemptive rights to use force to curb the attack or the felony. Thus, persons who commit murder in the process of preventing felonies or in cases where they are under forceful attacks act within the constitution and should not be punished.
Self-defense is a basic human right that is recognized by various legal systems from historical times to the modern day. Self-defense aims at protecting the life, property, and liberty of a person. Thus, the government or legislation is not justified in restricting these rights by punishing a person who kills in the process of preserving his constitutional rights. The passing of gun control legislations has strengthened the right to self-defense. In the in McDonald v. City of Chicago the court uplifted the ban on the possession of handguns by citizens for private use (Seville). Handguns are the most preferred weapons for personal defense at home; a ban on the possession of handguns was in violation of the constitutional right of self-defense. Thus, the lifting of the ban acted to strengthen the self-defense arguments for murders, which are committed in self-defense. Therefore, it would be in contradiction of the court's ruling to punish people who murder in self-defense while the court allows the possession of handguns for private use.
The statistics on the number of people who commit murder in self-defense are scanty. Similarly, the number of people who use guns is not well documented. However, a phone survey that was undertaken in the United States by the Department of Justice revealed that approximately 1.5 million people might use guns in self-defense annually. However, there are very few documented cases where self-defense has resulted in homicide. In 2008, the FBI recorded an insignificantly small number of 245 justifiable homicides that had been committed out of 14,180 murders that had been committed throughout the year. The means of recording the homicides entail only the homicides that take place at the same time a felony is being committed such as when a burglar is killed while attempting to break into a house. Therefore, various homicides go unreported such as the case.
Professor Kleck, a researcher on crime and gun control alleges that there is over three times the number of self-defense homicide cases reported by the FBI (Seville). This proves that the police may be inadequate in the protection of citizens; the statistics on criminal activities are always on the rise. Thus, self-defense is justified under these circumstances. Citizens pay and demand a secure environment; however, the government is unable to provide a secure environment. The constitution imposes no legal obligation on the police to protect persons from private persons. The US Supreme Court in South v. Maryland established that police officers had no constitutional responsibility to offer such protection. Additionally, in 1982, in the Bowers v. DeVito, the Court of Appeal in Seventh Circuit established that the Constitution does not impose any liability on the state to protect its citizens from murder committed by criminals or maniacs (McElroy). Thus, citizens should not be punished for undertaking measures that enhance their security or protect them from imminent danger even if such measures accidentally cause the death of the perpetrators of insecurity
The Law should punish murder in Self-Defense
All citizens are entitled to the right of life; this right is entrenched and should be preserved by the constitution. Thus, killing a person on the allegation of self-defense is unjustifiable and should be punishable by law. The legislations that allow for self-defense are based on reasonableness in proving that the killing occurred in self-defense. This has led to public controversies on the issue of self-defense; for instance in the UK, Tony Martin's killing of a burglar attracted a lot of public debate.
Self-defense is too focused on the rights of the defender to the extent that it blinds the significance of other people. In some instances, self-defense places a higher value on property as opposed to human life. Even in instances where the person is a burglar, killing them is not justified in the human rights sphere. Furthermore, self-defense deviates from the fundamental sense of proportion; though burglary is constitutionally and morally wrong, committing a more serious crime by killing the burglar is not justified. Additionally, self-defense opens that gates for numerous other unfortunate situations such the justification of the killing of a lost stranger who enters private property to seek for direction.
Permitting self-defense promotes vigilantism. The police may be appropriately funded and excellently organized; however, there are crimes that will still occur in a community. Police may not be in the right position at the time a crime takes place to protect the victim. However, the advocacy of self-defense to fill this gap overruns the goal of improving community policing and promotes vigilantism. Self-defense may lead to some people provoking a certain situation so that they can respond by taking the law into their hands. Furthermore, self-defense may lead to a situation where minority groups in the society are targeted and innocent people are attacked without any form of legal process.
Self-defense entails the use of brutal and unjustified force against the perpetrators of crime. The principals of self-defense are broadly uncontroversial; however, the use of excessive force is controversial. The majority of people who use self-defense are always looking for an opportunity to use excessive force. Additionally, the fear of death does not justify murder. This would imply that there are lives that are superior to others.
Evidence against arguments favoring self-defense
However, in the exercise of self-defense, the following factors must be considered: the scope of the right of self-defense, the person who may exercise the right, against who, and causes that justify self-defense. Self-defense must only be used in cases where a person reasonable believes that the threat of violence actually exists. The threatened party is under obligation to undertake all the necessary and prudent precautionary measures to prevent an attack (Pirie 52). For instance, it is prudent for a person to leave a door closed in order to maintain peace. However, if a party after undertaking all the reasonable precautionary measures is still assailed, the use of force is justified. The use of force is restricted to the application of reasonable force. A person is not allowed to use excessive force that may result to killing the assailant if they eliminate the imminent danger. For example, if an unarmed a person enters a house with various occupants with the intention to steal, the occupants are not entitled to use force, much less to kill or injure the assailant. Instead, they should secure the assailant and deliver him to the police. However, in cases where the attack is made by a criminal, and the situation renders it impossible to determine the extent of threat posed, it is justifiable to use maximum force to the extent of killing the criminal.
In homicide cases, a person may be excused from the crime in cases where they have no other options of defense against the attacker committing the felony. Additionally, in cases of a quarrel and the perpetrator suddenly beats the house occupant, to the extent that he is only left with the option of killing the aggressor, the use of excessive force would be a justified defense. The justification for the defense arises from the fact that the person is cannot call for help from the society, and being unprotected he reassumes his right to life that is sanctioned by the constitution by killing his attacker in order to protect his life (Pirie 54). Furthermore, an attacked party has a right to defend themselves against any form of aggression while they are in their private property. The law should allow the use of force if a party or his close relations are forcefully attacked since the law reveres the human mind and allows a person to use force when external force is used against him or his close relations.
The constitution guarantees that right to life of all the citizens in a country. Self-defense contradicts this right. However, all the citizens in a country are entitled to a peaceful environment. The government taxes its citizens in order to provide public goods such as security that the private enterprises lack the incentives to produce. However, the constitution places the government and the police officers under any constitutional responsibility to protect its citizens from imminent dangers including death. Thus, individuals are left without an option; they have to fight for their security and the protection of their own properties. The crime rates are always on the rise increasing the individuals need to protect themselves from crime. The uplifting on the ban on the possession of the handgun for private use has gone a long way in ensuring that individuals effectively protect themselves. Individuals are determined to protect their lives and property against any imminent danger. Any attackers or perpetrators of crime should be met with maximum force including death since they willingly seek it. Therefore, people who commit murder in self -defense should not be punished since the law is unable to guarantee security to its citizens.