As reported, Australian Clinton Brilley was out on bail for armed robbery when he broke into a sports club to commit robbery. A security guard, David Bingle, was on duty when Brilley used a crow bar to break in and threaten his life. Bingle fired in self defense, in fear of Brilley and his carload full of accomplices. Unfortunately for Bingle, a bullet struck Briley in the back, and Briley (who is currently in jail for another armed robbery) is suing. In 2007, the court awarded the armed robber $185,000AU but on appeal the verdict was thrown out, and a new trial is underway. This situation is unjust, plain and simple.
First, it is wrong for the court to second guess whether the security guard acted properly in defense of his life, as he faced multiple armed criminals. Armed robbery is a stressful and deadly situation, where split second decisions can determine whether the victim lives or is killed by the criminal. As such, the victim’s decisions should be shown a great deal of deference by judges, jurors, and others who review such decisions from the safety of a court room. Also criminals may pretend that they are leaving, only to return seconds later and resume the attack. I would also add that during the course of an attack, the criminal may end up temporarily facing away from the victim as they maneuver around obstacles, temporarily take cover, and otherwise continue attacking. In sum, while a robbery victim would not be justified in hunting down a criminal days later, I don’t think the fact that the bullet entered the criminal’s back here means that the victim was in the wrong. The fact that this case even went to trial sends the wrong message to citizens, who may now hesitate in a way that costs them their lives, out of fear that the criminal will be able to sue them later.
Secondly, I would like to say that even if, just for the sake of argument, the security guard used excessive force, the robber should not be able to win money damage. A person who has broken the law for their own gain should not then be able to use the law in order to extract money from the very person they were victimizing. This is not just my opinion, but a longstanding legal doctrine – which I think should apply in this case.