A question for Chris Grayling. As a 5ft4in woman, what legal options for self-defence do I have against a 6ft burglar? Honestly, I'd love to know

Jolly exciting they may be, but do these new guidelines make sense?

Grace Dent
Wednesday 10 October 2012 15:17
Justice secretary Chris Grayling speaks at the Conservative party conference in the International Convention Centre on October 9, 2012 in Birmingham, England.
Justice secretary Chris Grayling speaks at the Conservative party conference in the International Convention Centre on October 9, 2012 in Birmingham, England.

Chris “Mad Dog” Grayling’s plans for law change with regard to self-defence against burglars do sound jolly exciting. Confusing and unworkable, yes, but brimming with Tory, vigilante-style derring-do, none the less. Grayling’s words were a big hit with yer honest-to-goodness white-van-man Tories who took to their social network pissing posts with cries of “Three cheers 4 Graylin! The only gud thieve is a dead one!” Clearly, these people have never watched Fletch in Porridge, seen Adam Ant during his Dandy Highwayman phase or met the drunken scamps who steal the lickle baby Jesus from Carlisle City Centre nativity scene every year. All quite brilliant thieves, seems a bit harsh to kill them.

By contrast, left-wingers heard Grayling’s words and plummeted into woe, painting a picture of Britain’s future as a sort of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Heads on spikes, guns under every bed. The name of that poor wronged child who farmer Tony Martin shot dead was invoked. Left-wingers who normally abhor “ victim-blaming” suddenly yelled for a fair hearing for burglars, to hell with victims.

I’m sure Grayling was eating his packed lunch by this point, thinking: “Gosh, all I try to do is help. I only wanted to say the Tories are on your side against the baddies. Now everyone’s confused and shouting at each other.” I love it when politicians tackle law and order; it makes flip-flopping fops of us all. OK, let me read the advice again: “Householders who act instinctively and honestly in self-defence are victims of crime and should be treated that way.” But force which is “grossly disproportionate” is still against the law. I’ve read this several times, eventually sounding like Father Ted explaining to Father Dougal which cows are far away and which are small.

Personally, what I’d love to be made clear, as a 5ft 4in woman, is what “honest” legal options for “instinctive” self-defence I have. Whenever this topic rears its head, I hear male politicians seeming to describe what male homeowners can do to fight off male burglars who dare to enter their homes which are as we know their “ castles”. The inference being that a kick or a punch or, at worst, a jab of a knife in the heat of a battle will be ignored by the law.

But surely the only things I could do to tackle, say, a 6ft burglar in the heat of the moment and come off trumps would be “ grossly disproportionate”. A small woman is never going to take down a large man with “instinctive, honest” action. The only precedent I have of someone my size using honest force and winning against robbery is Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, but most nights at 4am I don’t have access to tarantulas, boiling pans of liquorice and corn syrups or a heated iron on a swing. Kato vs Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther is some inspiration, although I’m more an astanga yoga person than a one-inch punch.

I’ve read this several times, eventually sounding like Father Ted explaining to Father Dougal which cows are far away and which are small.

So is Grayling saying I can keep a shovel under my bed and wage a full Shaun of the Dead blood-and-guts attack on violent-seeming intruders? Or is he, more worryingly, saying that if I do kill someone in my bedroom with a shovel, just for hogging the duvet, I can then tell the police he was a burglar, and they will sigh and say, “Oh, help yourself”? Or is he saying, “Look, I’m making all the right noises Tories are supposed to at conference. This will be a real vote-winner. But I’ve not really thought it through, so everyone keep on doing what you’re all doing. Don’t have nightmares. Just call the police afterwards and they’ll sort this whole mess out”? But with 16,000 fewer of them on the streets by 2015, I’d prefer some clearer answers.

Toys won’t win you the abortion debate

It was amusing to see Peter Saunders, anti-abortionist and chief executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship, pull a teensy-tiny, palm-sized plastic doll from his pocket on Newsnight on Monday to make his point about human life. I’m sure he felt this was a winning card.

Peter, anti-abortionist teachers tried that game with me at school aged 12. Even then, I’d worked out the reasons for abortion were more complex than toytown gimmicks, and nothing a man could truly empathise with. I look forward to Paxman playing with Hungry Hippos in order to explain African environmentalist issues. Or Peter, come and play the kids’ favourite Buckaroo with me! We can load up the donkey, and when it springs it will symbolise the day women finally get numbskulls like you and Jeremy Hunt off our backs about abortion.

And to think that I once loved Lady Gaga...

As Lady Gaga dropped by on Julian Assange’s hideout this week to offer support over the poor flower’s troubles – oh, these allegations, they are a bit of a bind aren’t they, Julian? – I’d like to call time on her distinct usefulness as a pop star. Gosh, I loved this woman at one point.

I wavered when she began smash ’n’ grabbing Madonna’s back catalogue, shamelessly pulling a “watch me while I create” expression. I slipped further into umbrage when she appeared at the Indian Formula 1 launch, omming and nomming about peace ’n’ love in a patriarchal blur of car fumes. At least last week’s “clomping about in fishnets, smoking a joint on stage to stick it to the MAN” was amusing.

But, oh, to be a fly on the wall at the Assange/Gaga face-off, her dressed as a 1970s Woolworths fancy dress Hallowe’en witch (no, really, see the pictures), him channelling Morten Harket from A-ha mixed with the Messiah himself. “Forgive them, Gaga,” he probably said, “for they know not what they do.” She should lock herself in the embassy with him indefinitely. Not since Geri Halliwell met Russell Brand have worlds collided so awesomely.

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