Things Are Getting Thorny In Jolly Old England

posted on December 8, 2016

Most American gun owners are aware of how the English, over time, lost their right to keep and bear arms. In less than a century, the people who Winston Churchill exhorted to “never surrender” gave up their gun rights—not with a bang, but with a whimper. 

Now, private possession of handguns is largely banned in England, other firearms are prohibited or tightly controlled, and the right of self-defense has been progressively eroded. English citizens are even told, “The only fully legal self-defense product at the moment is a rape alarm.”

They are further instructed: “You must not get a product which is made or adapted to cause a person injury. Possession of such a product in public (and in private in specific circumstances) is against the law.”  

Not surprisingly, such laws haven’t led to more safety for law-abiding Englishmen and women. On the contrary, they have emboldened criminals.  “Although it can take some time for plants to grow, the end result really does justify the effort and should deter even the most determined burglar.”
— Pam Donnelly, chair of the Safer Colchester Partnership

Data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) indicates that almost 60 percent of burglaries of dwellings occurred when a resident or someone else was in the home; of those, the percentage where force or violence was threatened or used against the occupant has increased steadily since 2006. The latest CSEW statistics show that in burglaries where an occupant was present and saw the offender, the offender resorted to the use of force or another form of violent victimization in 41 percent of these crimes. 

Luckily for those left disarmed and vulnerable, one city has come up with an answer—self-defense shrubbery. 

And no, we’re not kidding.

The Colchester Borough Council has launched a strategic initiative called “Defensive Planting Helps Combat Crime.” And within that jewel of self-defense advice are many suggestions that would be laughable if the situation wasn’t so dire. 

In a nutshell, the Council has “joined forces with Essex Police and Poplar Nurseries to launch a Defensive Planting Initiative” to advise residents and businesses on the “the best shrubs and other living barriers” to plant to deter access to a property and thereby reduce burglaries and other crimes.

“Living barriers can be one of the best and most attractive ways of securing your home and property against crime,” says Pam Donnelly, chair of the Safer Colchester Partnership. “Although it can take some time for plants to grow, the end result really does justify the effort and should deter even the most determined burglar.” 

That’s right, Donnelly is advising homeowners to plant bushes that are so thorny that bad guys won’t be able to approach their homes. Which leaves us wondering how even the homeowner is expected to enter and exit through this supposedly impenetrable barrier. 

“One of the best ways to keep thieves out of your back garden is to use nature's own defense mechanisms,” echoes Angie Pearson, Colchester Police's crime prevention tactical adviser. “A barrier of prickly hedge or a climbing rose growing through a trellis fixed to the top of your fence may be all the protection you need around your property.” 

Of course, emphasis here should be placed on “may be all the protection you need.” 

The accompanying Defensive Planting Guide hashes out the relative effectiveness of a variety of self-defense shrubberies. It describes how Creeping Juniper has a thorny stem foliage, Giant Rhubarb has abrasive foliage and can grow up to 2.5 meters tall, and Blue Pine has a “spiky-needled stem.” And you won’t want to overlook Mountain Pine—“a very hardy, large shrub or small tree, with long, sharp needles.” Of course, in England’s kinder, gentler, anti-gun society, care must be taken that you don’t make things too thorny for those who wish to do you harm …

Of course, in England’s kinder, gentler, anti-gun society, care must be taken that you don’t make things too thorny for those who wish to do you harm and take your possessions. Local authority planning permission, if required, must be obtained, and the police advise any barriers should not leave the property owner “open to civil proceedings” from visitors and trespassers.

“You are making yourself liable to civil action as you owe a duty of care to ensure that visitors to your property are reasonably safe,” answers in a question regarding barbed/razor wire—only somewhat more prickly than many of the recommended plants. “Odd as it may seem, you also owe a duty of care to trespassers.”

Whew. Sure wouldn’t want to scratch up those poor, coddled English criminals!

We sincerely wish the best of luck to those in Colchester who choose to use prickly shrubs to protect themselves, their families and their belongings. As for us, we’ll keep our guns, our Castle Doctrine and our Second Amendment—a combination we see as far more effective against home invaders and burglars than Fuschia-flowered Gooseberry.


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