Sunday, February 3, 2013

Killing in Self Defence

Most of us law abiding citizens go through life never imagining that we might get entangled with the long arm of the law. And very likely we won't. But there are some who are not so fortunate.

Whether one is a man, woman or child, the threat of being a victim of some crime hangs over our heads like the Sword of Damocles. It can happen to anyone. Some survive it, some are scarred for life, some perish and there are a few who end up with blood on their hands.

This post is about them - those who kill in self defence and end up having to face the full weight of the legal system for a crime they never intended to commit in the first place. It is the kind of experience that can change one's whole life.

How kind is the law to those who act in self defence?

Kalaichelvi's Story

On Jan 7, 2010, a man broke into the home of housewife S.Kalaichelvi, 24, in the early hours of the morning and tried to rape her. To fend him off, she threw chili powder into his eyes, when he persisted, she reached for a steel rod and repeatedly hit him on the head. The man M.Kumaran, 30, succumbed to his injuries.

Kalaichelvi a mother of two young children, was pregnant with her third child at the time of the incident. She was initially charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code for murder. The charge was subsequently amended to Section 304A for causing death by negligence.

In June 2011, The Ipoh High Court sentenced her to two years in prison from her date of arrest after she pleaded guilty.

Her husband G.Kalipar, 26, was charged under Section 201 of the Penal Code for disposing off evidence related to the crime.

Some news reports also stated that Kalaichelvi and Kumaran knew each other and had spoken on the phone often. Both she and her husband also tried to conceal evidence of what had happened, only surrendering themselves to police three days after the incident.

Before sitting down to write this post, I read several news reports and blog posts about this case. Many people expressed anger with the court's decision, but several bloggers disagreed, saying the true story was not just one of a woman defending herself against rape.

They said Kalaichelvi was on ''very friendly" terms with the deceased, they used to text each other, there was no sign of forced entry into her home, plus why did she have to hit him until he died, why did she not just knock him unconscious? The implication being she fully intended to kill him.

It was also said that the accusation of rape was made by Kalaichelvi and her husband, there were no other witnesses. Seriously how many witnesses can there be to a rape? If there are witnesses, likely said rapist would not even make a move right??

Here's my take on the issue, most rapists are known to their victims, they are likely those who have gained their victim's trust - friends, boyfriends, relatives, colleagues etc. So if there's no forced entry it is not likely that he tried to rape her?

So she had a certain "friendship" going with this guy, does that make it ok for him to demand sex from her? Plus when you're defending yourself against potential harm, are you in a state to rationalise just how hard or how many times to hit the person who is trying to harm you?

It is true that she and her husband should have reported the incident to the police immediately. But in that situation, in a state of fear, how many of us will act rationally?

With regards to Kalaichelvi's story all I can say is this. A woman who acts in self defence against rape, should not have to clutch at straws to prove her case, to prove that she faced the prospect of great harm being inflicted on her. In my opinion the law should empower women to protect themselves against potential harm, whether it's rape or a snatch theft. We face more perils out there than our male counterparts, back us up, give us some ammo, empower us!

Brothers sentenced to hang for killing intruder

In October 2012, the Shah Alam High Court sentenced Indonesian brothers Frans and Dharry Frully Hiu to death for killing a burglar who broke into their home in Sepang while they were sleeping.

Here's the gist of the story, the burglar R.Khartic entered the shophouse through the back entrance and entered the unit through the ceiling and fell into the room where the brothers were sleeping with a Malaysian co-worker.

The burglar then attacked the men, the Malaysian fled to contact the police, Frans eventually managed to overpower the burglar by gripping him in an arm-lock. At this point he realised that Khartic had become still. Both brother then fled the unit in panic.

NGOs, prominent bloggers and columnists expressed outrage and called for a review of the case. They questioned how such charges could be framed in the first place, and how indeed could the judge pass such a sentence on two men who were merely defending themselves.

The Hiu brothers are Indonesian blue-collar workers. Now if they were say.......more economically well placed, had connections, had the money to hire A-list legal representation, their story would be entirely different.

The case of lawyer Balwant Singh says it all...........

In June 2003,  the 81-year-old lawyer was acquitted by the Kuala Lumpur High Court of killing despatch rider Gobala Krishnan at Jalan Maarof in Bangsar on June 7, 2002. The court ruled that Balwant acted in self-defence when he shot at Gobala who was threatening him with a stick.

The veteran lawyer not only escaped the gallows, but was granted bail for a non-bailable offence. Before Balwant, never in the legal history of this country, has anyone who was charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code for murder been granted bail.

Balwant was a lawyer, well known in legal circles, he had the connections, the money............

Kalaichelvi and the Hiu brothers don't come from the same ranks. This is where the media, the NGOs and lawyers who are willing to do pro-bono work come in. It is up to us to shine a spotlight on cases like this - to ensure justice. To make it almost impossible for prosecutors and judges to sleep on the job. Because cases like these, make it glaringly obvious that they do.