Tuesday, 15 December 2009
A businessman who fought off knife-wielding thugs threatening to kill his family was jailed for 30 months yesterday.
Munir Hussain and his wife and children returned from their local mosque during Ramadan to find three intruders, wearing balaclavas, in their home.
He feared for their lives as their hands were tied behind their backs and they were forced to crawl from room to room.
The 53-year-old made his escape after throwing a coffee table and enlisted his brother Tokeer in chasing the offenders down the street in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, bringing one of them to the ground.
What followed was described in Reading Crown Court as self-defence that went too far, leaving intruder Walid Salem with a permanent brain injury after he was struck with a cricket bat so hard that it broke into three pieces.
Salem was the only intruder caught after the incident on September 3 2008, but his injuries meant he was not fit to plead after being charged with false imprisonment.
Salem, who has a string of 50 past convictions, was given a two-year supervision order at a court hearing in September this year. He is currently in custody awaiting trial for an alleged credit card fraud.
The brothers, described as family men at the heart of the local community, were found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm with intent after a trial earlier this year. The prosecution alleged two other men took part in the so-called "revenge attack" with them.
Tokeer Hussain was given a 39-month sentence because Judge John Reddihough decided he had not been subject to as much provocation as his brother.
Judge Reddihough said Munir Hussain's family had been subject to a "serious and wicked offence" and praised the bravery of his teenage son who escaped to raise the alarm.
He also noted the "courage" of Munir Hussain, but said he carried out a "dreadful, violent attack" on Salem as he lay defenceless.
The judge told them: "It may be that some members of the public, or media commentators, will assert that the man Salem deserved what happened to him at the hands of you and the two others involved, and that you should not have been prosecuted and need not be punished.
"However, if persons were permitted to take the law into their own hands and inflict their own instant and violent punishment on an apprehended offender rather than letting justice take its course, then the rule of law and our system of criminal justice, which are the hallmarks of a civilised society, would collapse."
Sentencing the brothers, whose mother had died just before the incident, the judge added: "This case is a tragedy for you and your families.
"Sadly, I have no doubt that my public duty requires me to impose immediate prison sentences of some length upon you.
"This is in order to reflect the serious consequences of your violent acts and intent and to make it absolutely clear that, whatever the circumstances, persons cannot take the law into their own hands, or carry out revenge attacks upon a person who has offended them."
The brothers, who live near each other in Desborough Road, High Wycombe, did not react as they were sentenced, but members of their family watching from the public gallery tearfully shook their heads.
Michael Wolkind, defending, argued that his client, who has been prescribed anti-depressants, was the "real victim" in the case.
Mr Wolkind said the case had similarities to that of farmer Tony Martin, who shot a teenage intruder, noting there was public support in both cases.
He told the court: "The public surely do not want Munir Hussain to receive imprisonment.
"I don't seek a medal, I seek justice for him."
Munir Hussain, usually a controlled man, had simply acted in the heat of the moment in "extreme circumstances of stress", he said.
The prosecution said the Hussains were not being convicted for apprehending Salem, but for the "excessive force" they used on him.
Hilary Neville, prosecuting, said: "What started as reasonable self defence by Munir Hussain then turned into excessive force by virtue of a sustained attack by Munir, Tokeer and at least two others."
The court heard sentencing would have an impact on the local economy, with 10 members of staff losing their jobs at Soundsorba, the company run by Munir Hussain, who employs his brother as a technical director. The firm, which produces sound-absorbing material, has an annual turnover of £2.5m.
Munir Hussain feels he let down his wife Shaheen Begum and sons Awais, 21, Samad, 15, and 18-year-old daughter Arooj, by failing to defend them against Salem and his gang. His wife had suffered a stroke prior to the incident, and had since had a mini stroke.
There were now fears for his mental health, a psychiatrist who assessed him told the judge.
Dr Philip Joseph said Munir Hussain could even attempt suicide if his depression reached that stage, saying: "He would be in his cell, worrying about his family, thinking about the many losses he has suffered as a result of this incident.
"I would have concerns he would make a serious bid to harm himself."
Before yesterday's sentencing, a senior police officer had told Munir Hussain, who previously won an Asian businessman of the year award and is head of the Race Equality Council for High Wycombe, that he had sympathy for him.
The court heard Chief Inspector Colin Seaton of Thames Valley Police, the senior officer in the case, approached Munir Hussain after a community meeting, asking if there was anything he could do to help.
"He stated that whatever happened that night in the heat of the moment, he was still sad to see Munir Hussain and Tokeer Hussain convicted," Mr Wolkind added.
"He said they were outstanding members of the community and they had done a great deal of work in the community, both before this incident and afterwards."
Chief Insp Seaton stressed that he did not wish to see either brother go to jail.
The brothers will serve up to half their sentences in custody. Under normal sentencing guidelines they would each be starting sentences of at least seven years, the judge added.
Speaking outside court, Mr Wolkind said: "The criminal justice system has failed twice.
"The court was unable to sentence Walid Salem with sufficient harshness, or Munir and Tokeer Hussain with sufficient compassion.
"It's difficult to believe that this outcome reflects the thinking of the public, or the interests of justice."
He said he intended to appeal against the sentence on his client's behalf.