When one thinks of home there usually arises thoughts of comfort, safety, and securedness. Indeed there is a certain sanctity to one’s own abode, for a house is not simply a home. A home is a particularly special enclosure which we have associated a feeling of it being off limits to others and, by this, that it is a place where once within we can let our guard down and let free the anxiety which follows us around in our dealings with the outside world.
Yes, it is that distinction between inside such a place and the outside world which makes a home a home. But what happens when the outside world thrusts itself into your home? No, I am not here talking about the government legislating bedroom acts, nor am I speaking of our internet activities being monitored by state-influenced ISPs or our energy consumption being snooped upon by smart meters, but that rare event when a flesh and bone intruder crosses the threshold and brings into this place of comfort a presence which is most unwanted and dangerous.
What would you do if someone entered your home in a threatening manner? Would you flee? would you fight? would you call the police and hide? For one Moses Mahilal, a Canadian, the answer was to grab a weapon, in this case a knife from the kitchen, and to drive the intruder out. In the ensuing confrontation it is alleged that Mr. Mahilal stabbed the intruder a number of times who then fled. After the engagement charges were laid not simply upon the intruder who had entered the home, removed his shoes and found his way into the room where Mr. Mahilal’s mother was sleeping, but also upon Mr. Mahilal himself. The charge for the defender was aggravated assault. While recent news shows that the Crown has since dropped the charges, this raises an important question, to what extent ought a person use force in such a situation?
It’s clearly wrong if you invite someone in and attack them, and it seems perhaps equally wrong to chase someone off of your property and to then assault them. What about an instance where someone has entered your home? I suppose it is reasonable to incapacitate them, but even that prescribes actions which exist within the penumbra (the gray area between black and white) of reason. While I think it’s safe to say that one has the right to defend one’s self, loved ones, and property, the real question is to what end?
In the case of Mr. Mahilal it could be the fact that he chose such a macabre weapon (a kitchen knife, eek) that charges were put against him. Still, were he to choose a baseball bat, or some solid wieldable object, perhaps with a blow to the head – whether intentional or not – more serious damage could have occurred.
Perhaps the rule of thumb ought to be that the home owner is given the benefit of the doubt, where such benefit is due, in protecting him/herself from the violence of intruders. And in such cases where it becomes clear that the defender becomes vengeful or overzealous then considerations ought to be taken in determining whether further charges ought to be laid upon he or she who takes the violence to the intruder. Even still it seems necessary to lean toward cutting the defender some slack. God forbid you have to deal not only with the grief of having the security of your safest place breached, but afterwards finding yourself on the wrong side of the law. If the Crown were to have continued its prosecution, and a precedent were set, I’m not sure if this would send the right message to home owners, and really the fallout from such a decision would not sit very well in the stomachs of many.
In any event self defense is important, but so is restraint, and even still so is that element of the state which seeks to find events and actions which cross lines and require the punishment of those of us who go too far in our fight for our right to be and feel safe.
Anyways, just some thoughts. On the surface it doesn’t seem problematic, but such situations are rife for problems. What say you on this? Ought there be limits? (I should hope so, lest I walk into the wrong house and find myself beaten [or sliced] half to death [or worse]) And what ought these limits ought to be? Is this even something we can define, save for a case-by-case basis?
Anyways, I’ll leave you with that