Self-defence arguments surface at RCMP town halls to address rural property crime
Rural residents who live in fear because of brazen property crimes in their areas are now having their voices heard. A series of town halls are being held throughout the province by the RCMP including one on Thursday night in Perdue.
Each detachment in Saskatchewan will hold a meeting this year, a total of 87 town halls to educate and communicate with the public.
On Monday, the town of Biggar was one of the first places in the province to hold a town hall with approximately 100 people in attendance.
Ed Sittler, a Landis-area farmer since the mid-’50s was there and said property crime continues to be the talk on coffee row.
“My neighbours have all, for the most part, got incidents where stuff was taken illegally,” Sittler said to Global News.
“I’m concerned, you better believe it — we all are.”
Stiller, who is in his mid-70s, said he was pleased with the RCMP presentation.
Mounties urged everyone to avoid confrontation at all costs but conceded that residents were within their rights to risk life and limb to protect their families from harm.
“We know the law but when you see this happening to you, to me,” Sittler said. “Don’t use any more force than is necessary, well, who’s going to be the judge of that?”
When it comes to rationale and calm reflections in the face of an uplifted knife, this can be difficult, said Mark Brayford, a criminal defence lawyer in Saskatoon.
“You must act reasonably and if you act reasonably, you probably will be found to be acting in self-defence or at least they won’t prove otherwise.”
It is not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to self-defence
Brayford laid out an example involving the same dwelling at a different time of day.
“If you’re in the shower in the middle of the afternoon and someone is ringing your doorbell repeatedly, and you come downstairs to a teenager carrying your stereo out, I think most people would say it was unreasonable to open up your gun safe and shoot the kid.”
In this scenario, a person would have an opportunity to see what’s going on and the intruder likely thought no one would be home and therefore, they didn’t have any intention of confronting a homeowner.
Switch this scenario to late at night, your steel door is being bashed in and from every indication, the intruder appears to have a weapon, knows you’re probably at home and doesn’t appear to care.
“At that point, you’re there with your wife and young children, how much risk would a jury expect you to take before you open fire on these intruders before they come into your sleeping area?” said Brayford.
“I don’t think a jury is going to expect you to take very much hesitation.”
Major misconceptions when it comes to self-defence
However, Brayford was quick to point out that one major misconception is that you can automatically shoot an intruder when they enter your home. Using deadly force as a reasonable measure would need to fit the circumstances and threat.
On the other hand, not being able to use a firearm to defend yourself from danger isn’t accurate either.
“Any suggestion that you’re limited in what you can use to defend yourself is just plain wrong,” he said.
Here are some of the considerations for a jury or judge to evaluate when a self-defence argument is at play and as listed in the Criminal Code:
“A jury is going to judge you by, ‘Was your fear justified and reasonable for you in the circumstances,” added Brayford, which is why there is no bold statement on what a person can legally do in all situations.
“Use common sense in the force that you use, and if you behave excessively and knowingly, obviously that’s not permitted.”
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