Monday, February 16, 2009

The vigilante conundrum

I'm both angered and saddened by a report from England.

Father-of-three Peter Drummond was so angry when he discovered someone had sold heroin to his family that he took matters into his own hands.

He confronted John Nellies in his home and flushed five of the drug dealer's bags of heroin down the toilet.

But yesterday it was Drummond - not Nellies - who found himself being jailed in court.

The 26-year-old shook his head in disbelief as he was ordered to serve two months for breaching the peace by barging into Nellies's home and threatening him.

The court heard that Drummond had reached the end of his tether after watching his family 'torn apart' by heroin. When he learned on Sunday that his brother-in-law had visited Nellies to buy heroin, he went there later that day to take action.

. . .

Steve Lafferty, defending, asked for his client's punishment to be limited to a fine due to the case's 'quite unusual' circumstances.

He said Drummond had no other criminal charges against him and had acted out of desperation.

But Sheriff McCreadie told the defendant: 'If you were concerned about matters you should contact the police, not enter a house and threaten to kill someone.

'You can't take matters into your own hands the way you did.'

. . .

Outside court, family friend Thomas Brown said: 'Jailing him for what he did is ridiculous. It is a ludicrous decision and even the lawyer was shaking his head.

'Heroin is killing the community and I know for a fact that it has been tearing Peter's family apart.'

It remained unclear last night whether police were taking any action against Nellies.

I'm angered that the drug dealer isn't behind bars as well. If this incident had happened in the town where I live, I'm sure the 'vigilante' would still have been arrested and charged: but the dealer would have been charged right alongside him.

The real problem in Britain is that far too many criminals are getting away with their crimes. Police are no longer bothering to investigate what they classify as 'minor crimes': indeed, they're so tied up in bureaucratic red tape that they no longer have enough time to fight crime!

The percentage of time spent on paperwork has risen from 18.4 per cent of all officer time in 2005 to 19.7 per cent in 2007.

Meanwhile, the time spent on patrol is down from 15.3 per cent to only 13.6 per cent, according to figures unearthed by Conservative police spokesman David Ruffley.

It is the equivalent of little over 65 minutes of an eight-hour shift being spent on patrol, protecting the public.

It's no wonder that, under such circumstances, ordinary citizens get frustrated, and act on their own.

I don't and can't condone vigilante justice, or people taking the law into their own hands: but the corollary is that the justice system must do so on their behalf. When the justice system itself is broken, there's no other option except vigilante action.

I hope someone has compassion, and releases Mr. Drummond well ahead of the expiration of his sentence. I daresay that if most of us had been in his shoes, we might have done the same thing.



Stingray said...

I agree the situation in formerly great Britain is awful, but these numbers don't add up. If the officers are spending 13.6% actually on patrol and 19.7% on paperwork, that accounts for 65 minutes and 95 minutes, respectively. Where exactly are the other 320 minutes of an 8-hour shift being spent? I wouldn't be at all surprised if most were being wasted on some nonsense like citizen belittlement training, or given other reports coming out of England, sharia law training, but something seems fishy with those numbers. I know math scores are down for England and the US, but losing roughly two thirds of the workday seems a tad much to swallow.

Bob said...

And, like demand for guns and CCW licenses, vigilantism self-adjusts along with crime rates. In places where there is high crime and perception that the police won't act, vigilantism increases, as do purchases of firearms and CCW licenses.

Conversely, when crime drops, so do incidents of vigilantism and demand for guns/CCW licenses.

All three of these, then, should be taken as indicators of an unhealthy society and a need for increased police presence and more jails/longer prison sentences for criminals.

Anonymous said...

If the "justice" system breaks down and won't go after the true criminals, then they have to expect a rise in vigilante justice. And if *everyone* knew about the principle of "jury nullification" then the juries would just say "not guilty" to anything the vigilantes were charged with. Then the powers that be would get the message to go after real criminals and leave the vigilantes alone.

It's too bad not-so-Great Britain has fallen this low. After all, that's where jury nullification first came into being when William Penn was charged with preaching without a license way back in 1670.


Phillip said...

Frankly, this is the sort of thing that leads to the so-called vigilante deciding that if they're going to act, they are going to have to act viciously and with finality, so as to leave no witness / victim to file charges against them. In other words, someone in the same shoes as Drummond would be more likely to simply kill the drug dealer and not leave evidence about it.

There's a saying that goes "a righteous man won't fight, he'll just kill you quickly and be done with it, because he knows he is doing good."

Not saying this is a good thing, just human nature. If the law doesn't do its job, eventually people take matters into their own hands.

reflectoscope said...

Thing is, the whole justice system is supposed to be an expression of the will of the people, as in, "this is how we roll." When it stops being the will of the people, it becomes meaningless.


Anonymous said...

Isn't (the country formerly known as Great) Britain littered with closed-caption cameras, watching everyone and everything? What we need is someone to edit the footage down to one hour a week, subtitled when the accents are too dense, and sold as a reality TV show called "The Decline of Western Civilization". Sort of like "Cops" here. The footage can be stored in an online repository to serve as an object lesson in the dangers of making citizenship and civil participation part of the past.

I fervently wish them luck, though it seems to be happening in France, Switzerland, Scandinavia, and a good part of the whole of Europe as well.


Anonymous said...

QUOTE: Father-of-three Peter Drummond was so angry when he discovered someone had sold heroin to his family ...

I don't see any mention of the dealer forcing the family member at knifepoint to buy his goods. True, heroin isn't like other consumer goods, but the confrontation that should have occurred first was with the family junkie.