Munir Hussain and victims' rights
Munir Hussain is a British businessman and community leader who was jailed for 30 months following an attack on a burglar who had broken into his home and threatened him and his family. There was a public outcry because the law was seen as being biased in favour of the burglar instead of the victim.
Munir Hussain, 53 years old at the time, is married to Shaheen Begum, 49, has two sons Awais, 21 and Samad, 15, and two daughters, Farah, 25 and Arooj, 18. His brother Tokeer Hussain, 35, was also jailed for 39 months for taking part in the attack on the burglar. (Ages in 2009.)
Hussain trained as an engineer and runs Soundsorba Ltd , a High Wycombe based business which employs 9 people and turns over £2.4 million per year. He had been chairman of the Wycombe Race Equality Council and chairman of the Asian Business Council, which he helped found. In 2004 Hussain won the Business Link small business of the year award. Hussain was considered a leading figure in the town's voluntary organisations and was a major force in setting up the Green Street Community Centre in Desborough Street.
Confrontation with intruders and imprisonment
On 3 September 2008, during Ramadan, Mr. and Mrs. Hussain, their two sons and daughter Arooj, returned home to their house in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England, from their mosque, when they were confronted and tied up by three masked intruders. According to Awais
Awais Hussain: These men were wearing balaclavas and holding 12in knives to our necks. They punched me and my father repeatedly in the head and face and pushed us all to the floor. My father tried to reason with them, saying, "Take everything we have - just don't hurt us". But the men were sneering and shouting, "We're gonna f*****g kill you". My sister and mother were crying hysterically. We all thought we were going to die.
Samad broke free, fleeing upstairs pursued by two of the masked men, and managed to raise the alarm. Meanwhile Munir turned on the remaining intruder Walid Salem. Munir chased him off the premises and was joined by his brother Tokeer Hussain, who lived a few doors away. Munir and Tokeer brought Salem, a criminal with more than 50 previous convictions, to the ground in a neighbour's front garden. Salem was then subjected to a ferocious attack which left him with a brain injury and a fractured skull. Witnesses said about four Asian men were seen battering Salem with implements including a hockey stick and cricket bat. One witness pleaded with the attackers to stop, telling them that they were going to kill the man on the ground, but she was disregarded.
At Reading Crown Court on 14 December 2009, Judge John Reddihough sentenced Munir Hussain to 30 months in prison whilst sentencing Tokeer to 39 months in prison (full transcript of judgement). Tokeer was given a harsher sentence because the judge said he had not faced as much provocation as his brother.
Judge Reddihough:The prosecution rightly made it plain that there was no allegation against you, Munir Hussain, in respect of the force you used against Salem in defending your own home and family or of the force used by either of you in apprehending Salem. However, the attack which then occurred was totally unnecessary and amounted to a very violent revenge attack on a defenceless man. It may be that some members of the public or media commentators will assert that Salem deserved what happened to him, and that you should not have been prosecuted and need not be punished. The courts must make it clear that such conduct is criminal and unacceptable ... If persons were permitted to take the law into their own hands and inflict their own instant and violent punishment on an apprehended offender rather than letting the criminal justice system take its course, then the rule of law and our system of criminal justice, which are hallmarks of a civilised society, would collapse.
On 20 January 2010 the Court of Appeal reduced Munir's sentence to one year, suspended for two years, which meant he was immediately freed. Tokeer's sentence was reduced to two years, but not suspended, which meant he remained in prison. This ruling was criticised by some lawyers as paying too much attention to media attention and public outcry, and they claimed that the law worked well as it stood. Others, including Chris Grayling, the Conservative shadow Home Secretary, considered that the law should be changed.
It was later claimed that the motive for the break-in was not burglary, but that a man who (wrongly) believed his wife had had an affair with Munir Hussain had hired the three intruders to carry out an 'honour' attack. The wife stated there was no affair and that her only relationship with Munir was a business one, but her husband had become jealous because she had been happy at work. The wife is under police protection. The reports came as a surprise to the Hussains who believed the motive was robbery. However during the Hussains' first trial, John Price QC, prosecuting, noted:
John Price QC:Whatever the motivation for the attack, it was something of a personal kind. ... It didn't seem it had been done out of a desire to steal anything, rather that it was directed at the people who lived there.
On 29 March 2010 at Reading Crown Court, Wahleed Hussain, Munir's nephew, was freed after the jury were unable to reach a verdict over a charge of grievous bodily harm with intent relating to the attack on Salem. After the trial had ended (the last involving members of the Hussain family) Munir Hussain spoke out against his treatment:
Munir Hussain:The justice system has failed us and it has failed the country, as we should never have been charged.
The contentious issues
The contentious issue is the reasonableness of the force used, related to the delay between Munir Hussain's breaking free and the attack on Walid Salem, and the degree of force used. Judge Reddihough made this clear in his original judgement, and the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, said after the conviction of Munir.
Keir Starmer QC:There are many cases, some involving death, where no prosecutions are brought ... We would only ever bring a prosecution where we thought that the degree of force was unreasonable in such a way that the jury would realistically convict. So these are very rare cases and history tells us that the current test works very well.
Hence if there had been no time gap, and Salem had been subjected to a ferocious attack, or even killed, whilst Munir was breaking free, Munir would probably not have been charged. On the other hand, if Munir had had time to reflect on what had happened, and had then looked for Salem and beaten him up, his appeal would probably not have been successful, because it would have been considered a revenge attack. Unfortunately for Munir, English law treats the initial escape by Munir and the subsequent attack on Salem as two different incidents, although from Munir's point of view it could be argued there was no separation. The appeal succeeded (partially) because
Paul Mendelle QC:The court of appeal relied upon his [Munir's] impeccable character and the fact it was a provoked unplanned attack, and the very strong psychiatric evidence in this case.
In September 2009, Walid Salem, then 57, a criminal with more than 50 previous convictions, was given a two-year non-custodial supervision order to the charge of false imprisonment of the Hussain family, as he was considered unfit to plead due to brain damage caused by the attack by Munir and Tokeer Hussain.
On 4 January 2009 Salem was arrested for a further five offences he was accused of committing after he had recovered from the attack. However, on 21 December 2009 he received an absolute discharge because he was deemed unfit to plead.
A Member of Parliament condemned this absolute discharge and what he saw as a failure of the criminal justice system:
Philip Davies, MP for Shipley:It is as if he [Salem] has got a licence to commit as many crimes as he likes, knowing he'll never be sent to prison. This is what happens when the rights of criminals are put before law-abiding people.
The other two intruders have not been apprehended.
Other notable cases involving the use of force by victims:
- Sherwin, Adam (15 December 2009). "Jail for courageous Munir Hussain who beat intruder with cricket bat". The Times (London).
- Fernandez, Colin; Kisiel, Ryan. "Millionaire who fought off a knife-wielding burglar is jailed (while the intruder is let off)". Daily Mail (London).
- Bingham, John (2009-12-14). "Businessman jailed for attacking intruder - who goes free". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2010-01-11.
- Colin Fernandez (11 September 2009). "Millionaire faces jail for attack on knife raider at his home | Mail Online". London: Dailymail.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-01-11.
- Fernandez, Colin; Kisiel, Ryan (21 December 2009). "Thug Walid Salem boasts he is untouchable as the householder he tormented is jailed". Daily Mail (London).
- "Munir Hussain: father who attacked intruder freed from prison". The Daily Telegraph (London). 20 January 2010.
- Hirsch, Afua (20 January 2010). "Don't read too much into Munir Hussain judgment, say lawyers". The Guardian (London).
- "Burglars who targeted Munir Hussain were 'hired by jealous husband'". The Daily Telegraph (London). 27 January 2010.
- Hutchison, Peter (5 April 2010). "Businessman jailed for attacking burglar says justice system failed him". The Daily Telegraph (London).
- Fernandez, Colin; Kisiel, Ryan (22 December 2009). "New let-off for 'brain damaged' burglar who got a decent man sent to jail". Daily Mail (London).