21 Jan 2010

What’s reasonable..and not?

The outcome of a recent court case here in England has rocked the law and fired emotions! [The following information, gathered from several media reports, has not been verified].

What is known

It is the case of Munir Hussain, who was convicted of grievous bodily harm with intent, for retaliating against burglars, in balaclavas, who entered his home, put him and his family to lie face down on the floor and threatened to kill them. Hussain managed to confront one of the burglars, Waled Salem – a criminal with more than 50 convictions. Hussain was joined in a chase after the burglar by his brother Tokeer. They bashed his brains with a cricket bat, which in the process broke in three places.

Hussain was arrested charged and convicted of grievous bodily harm with intent and given a 30 month sentence!! Tokeer was given a 39 month sentence.

Munir Hussain, was a 53 year old businessman, and self-made millionaire. He was returning to his home from Ramadan prayers at a local mosque on Sept 3 2008. He and his family were confronted by three men wearing balaclavas in his home. Their lives were threatened; knives waved at them. Hussain’s teenage son was chased by two of the masked men. Hussain turned on Salem (the burglar) who escaped the house. Hussain’s, brother Tokeer arrived shortly after and they pursued Salem. They caught him and delivered a severe beating with a cricket bat, causing Salem a fractured skull, a broken jaw, and brain damage.

Witnesses reportedly said that four Asian men were seen beating Salem with a hockey stick and a cricket bat.

The criminal

Salem was eventually charged with false imprisonment but released on a supervision order. He was found unfit to plead in court but was  of sufficient capacity to boast that he was untouchable. Daily Mail 2009-12-21.

The Court

Judge John Reddihough in Dec 2009, described the attack on Salem as a "dreadful, violent attack" by the Hussain brothers.  Judge Reddihough added:

"It may be that some members of the public, or media commentators, will assert that Salem deserved what happened to him at the hands of you and the two others involved, and that you should not have been prosecuted and need not be punished," the judge added.

"However, if persons were permitted to … inflict their own instant and violent punishment on an apprehended offender rather than letting justice take its course, then the rule of law and our system of criminal justice, which are the hallmarks of a civilised society, would collapse."

Recent judgment

However, on 20th Dec 2010 – three judges at the Appeal Court  in London, replaced Hussain's 30-month prison term with one of a year, and ordered that it should be suspended for two years. Tokeer’s sentence was similarly reduced but he remains in prison. This recent judgment has rekindled fierce debates about self-defence and a person’s right to protect their property and family.


Lawyers have cautioned people not to read too much into the judgment. Guardian 2010-01-20.

Lord Judge said  that the principle “that you cannot take the law into your own hands without punishment” must be upheld, but that the truly exceptional circumstances of the case, allowed the court to “reflect the principles of justice and mercy”.

Essential reading: Times 2010-01-21

What do you all think about all this?