Surely he was Looking?

The shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling, makes what appears to be an extraordinary admission in today’s Sunday Telegraph. Referring to the law on self defence, he writes:

Private member’s Bills have sought to bring about reform but have been blocked. The Government promised change, but just rewrote the existing law when no one was looking.

Is Grayling really saying that he and his fellow opposition MPs failed to pay attention when the self-defence provisions of what is now the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 were debated in Parliament?

As it happens, he is not. Grayling has simply fallen victim to the Telegraph‘s subs. Judging by the version published on the newspaper’s website, what he wrote was:

Private Members Bills have sought to bring about reform but have been blocked by ministers – while the Government promised change, but when the time came just rewrote the existing law. It got the headlines, but quietly dropped its promise when no one was looking.

In other words, it was the promise to change the law – rather than merely to re-write it – that the Government dropped when no one was looking.

As it happens, several of us pointed out at the time that Jack’s Straw’s Bill was not intended to change the law.

Even the government’s own explanatory notes to section 76 of the 2008 Act say, variously,

Section 76 clarifies the law on the use of force in self-defence or the prevention of crime.


Section 76 provides a gloss on the common law of self-defence

But it’s good to know that Grayling was looking – even if he thinks nobody else was. Now let’s see what he can come up with.

I’d be surprised if it was any different from Straw’s law. It certainly shouldn’t be, despite the Home Secretary’s attempts to muddy the waters this morning. It was a jury that convicted Munir Husain of causing grievous bodily harm with intent, Mr Johnson, not a judge. 

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