Friday, April 13, 2012

The Second Wave *(dealing with police, courts and the law)

Whether you realise it or not, there are three waves that can result from a violent confrontation. The First Wave involves handling the physical assault itself... and the Second Wave involves handling the Police and the Courts... and the Third Wave is the potential loss of your job (and financial hardship) resulting from being charged and convicted for the way you defend yourself.

This post explains the important points of The Second Wave, and it's something that most people are completely unprepared for.

How come?  Because movies and television shows generally portray The Law as something that protects victims of crime, and only punishes the bad guys.

But it's not always as black-and-white as that, because most countries don't have a Justice System, they have a Legal SystemWhat's the difference?  Well a Legal System is a set of rules (laws) that are open to interpretation and don't always result in justice... but society expects you to obey them.

So if you (the victim) unintentionally breaks the law in the process of defending yourself, then both you and your attacker may well be charged (... albeit with separate offences).

Reasonable Force : In most countries there is a law about only using Reasonable Force when defending yourself.  Basically that means if your attacker punches, you can punch... or if they kick, then you can kick... or if they have a weapon, you can use a weapon.

But that law doesn't always take into account the size or aggression of your attacker.... and both of those factors can determine how much force is actually necessary to stop them But that's a point that your Lawyer/Barrister will have to argue in Court!

Also, regardless of how frightened you might be during an assault, it's generally considered to be an offence to attack an unarmed person with any sort of weapon.  So if you manage to take a weapon off an armed attacker, it's most probably unlawful to then hit them with it. 

Arming yourself at home :  Unless you live in a country with liberal gun laws, in a burglary or home invasion you will probably be restricted to trying to defend yourself with everyday objects. Some examples would be : scissors ; a screwdriver ; a strong torch ; or a solid walking stick.

If you play a sport, even sports equipment can be something you can use to protect yourself.  For example you might have a cricket bat (and ball) behind a door ; or a baseball bat (and ball) ; or a hockey stick (and ball) ; or even a golf club (and ball). 

Why always a ball?   Well if you don't have a ball nearby to use with your bat/stick/club, then the police might assume that you only have it to use as a weapon. 

In other words, the object by itself could indicate your intent to cause harm.  The intruder might get arrested, but you might get arrested as well, for attacking an unarmed person with a object that was meant to be used solely as a weapon. 

So always have a matching ball somewhere... just to prove that you have the bat/stick/club for occassional exercise, and not as a weapon to attack people with.

Many martial artists like to have a martial arts weapon lying around at home.  But again, having a recognisable weapon like a samurai sword or nunchaku next to the front door shows an intent to cause harm... and as a consequence, you might find yourself charged with an offence as well.

It's ridiculous I know... especially if the intruder is much bigger or stronger than you are.  But laws aren't always about common sense or justice!  They are 'rules' that society expects you to obey.

Talking to the police :  If the police are called to an incident (on the street or at your home), they will generally interview everyone involved, as well as take statements from any witnesses.

Now it's important to understand that many people (victims) are charged with related offences simply because of what they inadvertently say to the police while they were still suffering the effects of adrenaline or emotional distress.

Here are just two examples :  "I just wanted to frighten him with the bat, but he rushed me so I hit him with it."  or  "He punched me in the face so I broke his jaw with a ninja death elbow." 

This is what some police refer to as verbal diarreha... when a person just blurts out lots of words in the hope of proving their innocence.  However police generally write down everything that's said (whether you really meant it or not), and your statements can be used against you.

So before you say anything to police, insist that you take a few moments to sit and calm yourself, and let the effects of adrenalin subside.  Don't be pressured into giving your side of the story... insist that you need to sit down... because your future may depend on what you say, and how you say it.

You might even ask to have a drink of water... and take that opportunity to take a few deep breaths.

Being arrested :  After police have taken notes about what was said and done, they might decide to arrest everyone involved.  This is not uncommon - so don't panic - and don't resist being taken to the police station, even if it's in handcuffs. 

If you DO resist, regardless of whether you are the victim or not, you may face a charge of resisting arrest... which will be separate from any other charges relating to the confrontation.

If you are arrested you will be officially interviewed. Generally you are entitled to telephone someone, or to arrange legal representation.  But remember to contact a criminal lawyer! 

Most people panic at this point, and just want to give a quick statement and go home.  But in doing so they risk ending up in Court at a later dateWhen you're dealing with The Second Wave you have to think long-term... because the consequences are long-term.

Conviction rates :  It's an unfortunate fact that the careers of many police officers depend on their conviction rate.  Consequently, if they can successfully charge your attacker and YOU, then their conviction rate rises. And that increases their chances of promotion and a pay-rise. 

All police have to do is show that you broke a law (any law).  And if you did, then from their perspective you're a bad guy too... even if you were in fact the victim in this case. 

You really are at the mercy of the character of the police officer(s) you're dealing with.  So it's important that you don't expect that they will automatically act with tolerance and understanding like the police you've seen on TV. 

They might turn a blind eye to some small breach, but there's no guarantee.  And keep in mind that in most countries, ignorance of the law is no defence!

Giving a statement :  So if you do give a statement (at the scene or at the station), following are a few things to keep in mind :
  • firstly, make sure you mention how aggressive and threatening your attacker was
  • that you tried to de-escalate the situation and distance yourself from your attacker
  • but they continued to be aggressive, and so you were forced to defend yourself.  

Finally, stick to your story, no matter how many times you're asked to describe what happened.
Keep in mind that the police will be taking note of everything you say, and they will be looking
for discrepancies.  And those same discrepancies can-and-will be used by the opposing
Barrister, should you ever end up in Court defending your actions.

It's Primal Protection.

Friday, April 6, 2012

If you're Confronted - give them The Finger!

Fighting stances can be understood as being tactical body language... a physical statement that registers (unconsciously) with your opponent.  Basically, it sends a message about your intention!

Many martial artists think that if they adopt a strong fighting stance when they're confronted, their opponent will see that they are a formidable adversary, and possibly back down (in fear).  But that's not always the best tactic to apply in the initial stages of a confrontation. 

Why not?  Well in terms of body-language, a stance is an aggressive act... a threatening gesture. 

So when one person adopts a fighting stance, the other person will often feel compelled to adopt a fighting stance as well (to protect themselves)... then one or both of them will feel compelled to launch an attack.

So adopting a fighting stance in the early stages of a confrontation can actually escalate the level of violence - unnecessarily

Also, you might find that Common Law in many countries requires you to try and retreat from a potentially violent confrontation. So adopting a fighting stance isn't going to look like you did that. In fact it demonstrates the opposite... so you might find yourself charged with Affray (fighting in public). 

Finally, adopting a martial arts stance informs your opponent that you do in fact have some level of skill.  And with that knowledge they can change their attack strategy... prompting them to pick up a bottle or a chair, or call for a bit of help from their friends.

In fact, if any of your opponent's friends (wife or girlfriend) feel that your fighting stance makes you look too threatening, these days they're just as likely to step out of the crowd   and hit you over the head with something... a bottle, or the heel of a stiletto shoe.

Tactically, you're better off creating a safe distance (4 to 6 feet), and adopting a primal threat indicator : turning your body side-on, chin down, and point with your index finger.

You can add to the de-escalation effect by saying "Calm down" or "Stay back", or even something much stronger.  Whatever you say, it's vital that your tone of voice is deep, strong and confident.
Keep in mind that predators only understand their own language... so being nice is going to be a complete waste of time. You need to speak to them in a way they'll understand.... and that sometimes means using hard language!

So in summary, remember that in this age of CCTV cameras and camera-phones, it's important NOT to adopt a recognisable fighting stance... but instead, give your opponent the pointed-finger.

It's Primal Protection. 

For more insight into the Tactic of Verbal De-Escalation, click on the link below :