In the Absence of Guns

 

 

 

 

 

In Britain, defending your property can get you life.

 

 

” Celebrity news from the United Kingdom: In April, Germaine Greer, the Australian feminist and author of The Female Eunuch, was leaving her house in East Anglia, when a young woman accosted her, forced her back inside, tied her up, smashed her glasses, and then set about demolishing her ornaments with a poker.

A couple of weeks before that, the 85-year-old mother of Phil Collins, the well-known rock star, was punched in the ribs, the back, and the head on a West London street, before her companion was robbed. “That’s what you have to expect these days,” she said, philosophically.

Anthea Turner, the host of Britain’s top-rated National Lottery TV show, went to see the West End revival of Grease with a friend. They were spotted at the theatre by a young man who followed them out and, while their car was stuck in traffic, forced his way in and wrenched a diamond-encrusted Rolex off the friend’s wrist.

A week before that, the 94-year-old mother of Ridley Scott, the director of Alien and other Hollywood hits, was beaten and robbed by two men who broke into her home and threatened to kill her. “

 

Read On , That Was Just The Prelude

 

” A few months ago, Shirley Best, owner of the Rolander Fashion boutique whose clients include the daughter of the Princess Royal, was ironing some garments when two youths broke in. They pressed the hot iron into her side and stole her watch, leaving her badly burnt.

“I was frightened to defend myself,” said Miss Best. “I thought if I did anything I would be arrested.”

And who can blame her? Shortly before the attack, she’d been reading about Tony Martin, a Norfolk farmer whose home had been broken into and who had responded by shooting and killing the teenage burglar. He was charged with murder. In April, he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment—for defending himself against a career criminal in an area where the police are far away and reluctant to have their sleep disturbed.

Norfolk is a remote rural corner of England. It ought to be as peaceful and crime-free as my remote rural corner of New England. But it isn’t. Old impressions die hard: Americans still think of Britain as a low-crime country. Conversely, the British think of America as a high-crime country. But neither impression is true. The overall crime rate in England and Wales is 60 percent higher than that in the United States. True, in America you’re more likely to be shot to death. On the other hand, in England you’re more likely to be strangled to death. But in both cases, the statistical likelihood of being murdered at all is remote, especially if you steer clear of the drug trade. When it comes to anything else, though—burglary, auto theft, armed robbery, violent assault, rape—the crime rate reaches deep into British society in ways most Americans would find virtually inconceivable.

I cite those celebrity assaults not because celebrities are more prone to wind up as crime victims than anyone else, but only because the measure of a civilized society is how easily you can insulate yourself from its snarling underclass. In America, if you can make it out of some of the loonier cities, it’s a piece of cake, relatively speaking. In Britain, if even a rock star or TV supremo can’t insulate himself, nobody can. “