Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Myleene Klass and that knife

It is being widely reported this morning that Myleene Klass has been warned by police after wielding a knife at some intruders who were in her back garden attempting to break into her shed.

The Telegraph reports it as follows:

The youths approached the kitchen window, before attempting to break into her garden shed, prompting Miss Klass to wave a kitchen knife to scare them away.

Miss Klass, 31, who was alone in her house in Potters Bar, Herts, with her two-year-old daughter, Ava, called the police. When they arrived at her house they informed her that she should not have used a knife to scare off the youths because carrying an "offensive weapon" – even in her own home – was illegal.

Jonathan Shalit, Miss Klass's agent, said that had been "shaken and utterly terrified" by the incident and was stepping up security at the house she shares with her fiancé, Graham Quinn, who was away on business at the time.

He said: "Myleene was aghast when she was told that the law did not allow her to defend herself in her own home. All she did was scream loudly and wave the knife to try and frighten them off.

"She is not looking to be a vigilante, and has the utmost respect for the law, but when the police explained to her that even if you're at home alone and you have an intruder, you are not allowed to protect yourself, she was bemused.

"Her questions going forward are: what are my rights, and what are you actually allowed to do to defend yourself in your own house?"

When I lived in Manchester in the mid-90s as a student there was lots of crime and students were often the victims. I myself was mugged at one point and I knew lots of other students whose houses were broken into (including one that I had lived in although after I had left for the summer), sometimes terrifyingly when the people were in. Indeed one friend of mine was tied up and kept prisoner along with some of her housemates whilst the thieves ransacked the house for several hours and they went out to use their cash-cards to withdraw money. To be honest I never felt particularly safe in any of the places I lived whilst I was there.

There was an incident in the house I lived in in my third year which reminds me of the Klass incident. I was not in the house at the time but one of my housemates was and he told me what happened when I got home. He had been home alone when he heard the doorbell ring. However it was not a normal ring, it was someone continuously holding down the doorbell. Instantly fearing something untoward was happening, he picked up the biggest kitchen knife he could find and went out into the hallway. There was a large and menacing looking bloke staring through the glass whilst still holding down the bell. My housemate was a reasonably well built chap himself and he looked at the man through the glass who continued staring and holding down the bell. It was obvious to my housemate that this bloke was up to no good. He sat on the stairs facing the door holding the knife and staring at him. He continued to hold down the bell for a little while but in the end he stopped and walked away. My housemate stayed at the bottom of the stairs with the knife for quite a while until he was fairly sure that the bloke was not going to come back.

Now when I heard this story later on I was pretty disturbed. I don't know for definite what would have happened if my housemate had opened the door but I can take a pretty good guess given what had happened to so many of our fellow students in this sort of situation. So I think what he did was actually very brave. Not least because if the bloke had forced entry he then would have had to take a decision about what to do next. As it was, I suspect he walked away in the hope of finding easier pickings where there was not someone willing to defend their home with a knife. So in other words, the fact that he was willing to defend our home probably prevented a burglary or worse. And that would seem to be the case with Myleene Klass too.

From what I have read about the Klass case so far, if it is true then I think what she did was right in that same way as I think what my housemate did was right. We should be able to defend our own property and posessions. Indeed, I have seen on many occasions the police and politicians claim that we are entitled to do this. I remember a few years ago on a TV discussion programme a senior police officer was being interviewed and he was given a number of scenarios of increasing extremity regarding someone defending themselves against an intruder in their own home and in each case he stated categorically that the measures suggested would be fine. I am certain that had he been given the Klass scenario or the other one I have highlighted here that he would have said they were acceptable measures too.

There will doubtless be further questions now about the law and whether it needs to be changed. I suspect that what is actually needed is just for the public and perhaps as importantly the police to be more clear. We should be allowed to defend our homes against intruders and I think the law as it stands currently allows for this. It's just that comments like this from the police allow the water to be muddied.

I hope the police are able to clarify this ASAP.


Anonymous said...

I've got a feeling that reporting of this just doesn't deal well with the subtleties.

Whilst self defence in ones own home is reasonable, although in the event of injury or death should still be investigated, the intent debate comes into play. She wasn't immediately threatened, so wielding the knife would indicate an intent to use it, had someone been injured or killed later then it could reasonably be portrayed as premeditated.

I managed to turn self defence into assault by taking two steps towards my attacker to get a decent punch in. The prosecution used that to call it premeditated.

That said, in this sort of low level crime situation it's usually a good plan to make it look easier and safer to go elsewhere to commit the crime, and even appearing willing to do something will be enough.

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

Beware of this story for there are no actual quotes direct from the police - it is all 3rd party hearsay from the agent.

dazmando said...

This article could of course be an excuse to put a lovely pick of Myleene Klass on your blog Mark?

There has been mixed signals from those in power for some time on this especially the courts

Mark Reckons said...

meanderingmammal - I don't know the details of your case but it sounds a bit unfair to me if you were just trying to defend yourself.

CRM - I did say "if it is true" to be fair. Also, nice shoehorning in of the word Hearsay;)

Daz - To be honest I always preferred Kym ;)

Anonymous said...

Mark - The assessment probably was reasonable, the point was I had a choice, I could have defended myself or buggered off at speed. Since I had the choice I should have gone for the buggering off option. The law doesn't account for ''the heat of the moment'', it assumes rational decision making. The media on the other hand do emotion all the time, and avoid rational.

Alex said...

"The law doesn't account for ''the heat of the moment'', it assumes rational decision making."

Not it doesn't as this article makes clear:

Mark, you should read it too. You're allowed to use "reasonable force" (and who decides whether it is reasonable will be a jury of your peers), and that takes into account heat of the moment stuff (which by definition is "reasonable"). I'm no expert, but I can't see that Myleene did anything wrong. She was using the weapon in self defence. That's legal. If she'd started repeatedly hacking away at the intruders with the knife (similar to the brothers in that link) then that wouldn't be "reasonable" force. That would be taking the law into your own hands.

So if the police really did warn her, then they're wrong.

Anonymous said...


A fair point, I should have been clearer, although the jury can frequently be directed towards a decision.

I'd also agree that she didn't do anything wrong but she did leave herself vulnerable should the situation have been escalated. As Mark points out in his post, it's all very well doing these things, but you need to be clear on what you're going to do if it's escalated rather than diffused.

Anonymous said...

Flash forward to an unarmed teen gunned down while walking down,the street so some guy could "stand his ground". In her own home, she can't show a knife through a freaking window to a group of males on her property, committing a crime right in front of her, who may do God- knows-what to her if they get in? Remember that we have American politician (and plenty of men including cops who would like this idea ) trying to redefine rape....and are not going to be in favor of a woman protecting herself from a rogue group of young men. personally? I'd like to see her with even more powerful weapon. Ideally she would never need such a thing but in this country class three violent sex offenders are set free every single day until people are killed ...figure out who did it before they get into custody for any length of time.