A millionaire businessman who fought back against a knife-wielding burglar was jailed for two-and-a-half years yesterday. But his attacker has been spared prison.
Munir Hussain, 53, and his family were tied up and told to lie on the floor by career criminal Waled Salem, who burst into his home with two other masked men.
Mr Hussain escaped and attacked Salem with a metal pole and a cricket bat. But yesterday it was the businessman who was starting a prison sentence for his 'very violent revenge'.
Jailing him, Judge John Reddihough said some members of the public would think that 56-year-old Salem 'deserved what happened to him' and that Mr Hussain 'should not have been prosecuted'.
But had he spared Mr Hussain jail, the judge said, the 'rule of law' would collapse.
He said: '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 the criminal justice system take its course, then the rule of law and our system of criminal justice, which are hallmarks of a civilised society, would collapse.'
Salem, who has previous convictions, has already been given a non-custodial sentence despite carrying out what the judge called a 'serious and wicked' attack.
Mr Hussain's nightmare began on September 3 last year when he, his wife, 18-year-old daughter and two sons aged 18 and 15 returned from their mosque during Ramadan to find three intruders in their home in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
They were tied up and told to get on the floor if they did not want to be killed. One of Mr Hussain's sons managed to escape and alerted Mr Hussain's younger brother Tokeer, 35, who lived a few doors away.
Mr Hussain made a break for freedom by throwing a coffee table at his attackers. He and Tokeer chased the gang and brought Salem to the ground in a front garden.
Reading Crown Court heard how Mr Hussain and his brother then beat Salem while he lay on the ground, using a cricket bat, a pole and a hockey stick - leaving him with a fractured skull and brain damage following the 'sustained' attack.
If you use force which is 'not excessive' against burglars then the law is on your side.
Last year's Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill contained clauses to protect people from prosecution if they act instinctively and out of fear for their safety.
Justice Secretary Jack Straw said:
'Law-abiding citizens should not be put off tackling criminals by fear of excessive investigation.
'For a passer-by witnessing a street crime or a householder faced with a burglar, we are reassuring them that if they use force which is not excessive or disproportionate, the law really is behind them.'
Salem's condition meant he was unable to enter a plea to false imprisonment. He was given a non-custodial sentence-in October.
Salem, of Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, did not give evidence at Mr Hussain's trial. Michael Wolkind, QC, representing Mr Hussain, who runs a soundproofing company, said his client's actions were 'taken in the agony of the moment' and that his 'calm judgment was not available'.
'If there was a call to arms it was down to the extreme moment of stress,' he said. Mr Wolkind said Mr Hussain, a devout Muslim, blamed himself for the attack and felt guilty for not protecting his family properly. 'It will take him a number of years to recover,' he said.
The court also heard from psychiatrist Dr Phillip Joseph who said Mr Hussain was a calm person who kept himself in control, but that his body had chosen the 'fight rather than flight' option.
During mitigation a number of letters from Daily Mail readers who had supported a campaign against the businessman's conviction were read to the judge.
The court heard that Mr Hussain's wife Shahwen has had a mini stroke since the attack.
Judge Reddihough sentenced Munir Hussain to 30 months in jail for grievous bodily harm with intent. Tokeer was given 39 months because the judge said he had not faced as much provocation as his brother.
The judge added: 'The prosecution rightly made it plain that there was no allegation against you, Munir Hussain, in respect of the force you used against Salem in defending your own home and family or of the force used by either of you in apprehending Salem.
'However, the attack which then occurred was totally unnecessary and amounted to a very violent revenge attack on a defenceless man.
'It may be that some members of the public or media commentators will assert that Salem deserved what happened to him, and that you should not have been prosecuted and need not be punished.
'The courts must make it clear that such conduct is criminal and unacceptable.'
Razi Shah, Mr Hussain's solicitor, said his family were devastated but hoped the conviction could be overturned at appeal.
Last night an MP condemned the decision to jail Mr Hussain as 'perverse'. Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley, said: 'It's absolutely disgraceful. The public are sick to the back teeth of this kind of decision.
'Whatever the rights and wrongs, the starting point should be that this man's home was violated. He must have been absolutely petrified.
'A person who inflicts this kind of misery is free to go out and do it again somewhere. It's always the same, the real criminals get away scot free.'
The 2008 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act sets out the terms on which people might 'use no more force than absolutely necessary' against criminals.
Victims or those who intervene to stop a criminal have the backing of the law if they act instinctively, if they fear for their safety and act accordingly, if they act to prevent a criminal escaping, or if their use of force is neither 'excessive nor disproportionate'.