This poor man was badly assaulted. How can others avoid his fate? The press ain’t tellin’.
On the 22nd of December, a sixteen year old boy named Tyler Fielding of Redruth, Cornwall in the UK, was found guilty of the attempted murder of Mr Victor King, a man in his fifties. Fielding, the court heard, kicked and stamped on Mr King, causing serious head injuries and damaging his trachea to the extent necessary to cause suffocation. Mr King was found lying unconscious in the street by a passer-by, and only survived because paramedics assisted his breathing at the scene. According to the press, the violent, murderous little thug will be sentenced in January 2012.
End of story, one might think. But no! This story reveals so much about the counter-productive nature of the mainstream press and their dismal, dismal role in contemporary society, that I simply couldn’t let it pass without comment. And, if the details of the crime published in the press are accurate (there’s no guarantee that anything the press publishes is correct), the case itself presents a simply excellent self-defence teaching opportunity.
Mr King was and is very much the wronged party in this story. But one thing the press hasn’t done (and never does) is ask the important questions about the circumstances surrounding the attack. Namely, how could Mr King have saved himself?
Perhaps this reticence is due- in part- to the unwillingness to critique or pick apart Mr King’s actions leading up to the attack. Perhaps reporters feel uncomfortable about potentially seeming to criticize the victim. But for anyone who is genuinely interested in avoiding being attacked, anyone who is interested in the questions surrounding the legal issue of self-defence at all, and anyone who cares about educating the public in how violence occurs and what can be done to truly protect oneself from it, the question must be posed: What could the victim, Mr King, have done differently?
In this case, the answers are clear and incontestable.
In the more detailed reports on the incident and the court case as it unfolded, such as this article originating from the Western Morning News, the events on the night of the 15th of May 2011 unfolded as follows:
1. Fielding and three female youths, all 15 and 16 years old, tried to buy cider at a local off-licence, and verbally abused the shopkeeper when he refused to serve them.
2. A short time later, the youths were in a newsagents buying sweets, when they first encountered Mr King. Fielding has maintained that Mr King “barged into” one of the girls in the newsagents, and “queue jumped”. Since Fielding was by his own admission already drunk and high at the time, his account must be viewed with suspicion.
3. Another short time later, Mr King was sitting on a bench in the town centre, when Fielding and the three girls walked past. Fielding maintained that Mr King made an offensive remark about one of the girls as they passed him.
4. Fielding then set about Mr King, kicking and punching him. This was caught on CCTV.
5. Fielding then left the scene with the girls in tow.
6. Mr King then followed Fielding and the girls. This was also caught on CCTV. Why did he follow them? Perhaps he wished to remonstrate with Fielding further, perhaps he wished to physically revenge himself on Fielding for the physical attack that had just occurred, or perhaps he wished to keep them in sight before informing the police. The press have nothing to say on this question.
7. Fielding then assaulted Mr King in a much more brutal and definitive fashion. While Mr King was on the floor, Fielding kicked and stamped on his head and neck repeatedly, leading to severe injury and unconsciousness.
8. Fielding then left with the girls. According to the prosecution, he was in jubilant mood.
Mr King, sadly, has been left disabled by the attack. His speech has been affected, and he cannot walk unaided.
Justice has been done, no doubt. A severe attack, murderous in nature, occurred. And the perpetrator has been convicted of the most serious offence applicable, attempted murder. His sentence will no doubt reflect the seriousness of his crime.
Of course, none of this will sate the rabid and reprehensible members of the public that have been screaming in the comments section of the major news sites that have covered the story that we should “bring back hanging” in the UK and gloating at the idea that Fielding could be sexually assaulted in prison. I disapprove of such immature, savage and ridiculous sentiments, and I think anyone thinking such thoughts, let alone publicly airing them, should be ashamed of themselves.
And as stated before, nobody asks the question: What, if anything, could Mr King have done differently on that night?
Well the answer is obvious. If you’ve just been assaulted on the street, (as Mr King was,) and your attacker has left the scene (as his attacker DID)… don’t run after your attacker. This is simple common sense, and it’s advice that any policeman, bouncer, self-defence instructor or security professional would give.
Self defence is about safeguarding yourself from risk and injury. It is NOT self defence to pursue your attacker after the fact. Even if you beat your attacker to a pulp, instead of being beaten yourself, it is not self defence.
Make no mistake, it was without question the repeated stamping and kicking of Mr King on the floor that has led to Fielding’s conviction for attempted murder. If he had merely knocked Mr King unconscious and left the scene, even if Mr King had then died (perhaps due to positional asphyxia), he would have had a reasonable self-defence plea available to him, and it’s doubtful he’d have been convicted of more than assault or grievous bodily harm. He could have claimed (and in fact did) that Mr King had followed him with violent intent, and that his subsequent actions were defensive in nature. And he could have gotten away with that, true or not, because apparently there was no CCTV covering the location of the final assault.
Two lessons can be learned from this incident. One, don’t get angry and pursue someone you think has wronged you, even if you’re right. It could get you killed. Two, if you’re in a fight, don’t kick or stamp on the person you’re fighting when they’re on the ground and vulnerable, as that may constitute attempted murder… even if you were initially defending yourself.
If you wish to defend yourself, escape when you can. Anything else is based on ego, and may well result in either a visit to the hospital, or to jail… or to the morgue.
Those who are incapable of thinking in shades of grey may well be overheating at this point, and might accuse me of saying that Mr King in some way “deserved” his fate. Obviously such people are beyond mistaken. Mr King was undoubtedly the wronged party here. But could he have avoided his fate? Yes. And if the media had a conscience, every story associated with this case would have informed the public of how to avoid his fate.
Even worse, many of the recent reports on this case have simply left the circumstances surrounding the final assault unmentioned. This BBC report for instance manages to convey the erroneous impression that Mr King was assaulted once, and totally at random. In fact, according to the more detailed reports, Mr King was assaulted twice. The first assault might conceivably be called random… but the second assault occurred when Mr King pursued Fielding through the streets.
And why do the media deny the public the most useful information? Why do they not ask the most constructive questions? Because the mainstream media is at best a useless, at worst a counter productive, organism. This story, one of many, shows that the media are interested in informing people about crime and violence… but only in a way that makes people afraid and angry. They miss the opportunity to educate and inform. They increase fear and tension, and do nothing to increase safety through knowledge.
They do this when reporting on politics, on economics, and on crime and violence.
The organs of the mainstream media are part of the problem. They are not part of the solution.