Vigilante Justice: Robin Hood to Dog the Bounty Hunter


Mathieu Vaillancourt,

Centuries passing by, in all parts of the world, vigilante justice had been part of the common law. You might think about old stories involving Robin Hood or more recently, the famous reality show Dog the Bounty Hunter.

But what exactly does the law says about this? Is it legal or not?

In the UK, considering the Common Law related to criminal justice, it’s quite difficult to see a precise law, except that in all cases, ”reasonable” force must be used. This means that it is illegal according to criminal law to kill or causing bodily harm for someone even for self-defense.(1)

However, in the US the legislation is quite different, as each state decides their own legislation. In some states (like Oklahoma) for example, it’s legal for someone to use lethal force in other to defend themselves from an intruder. There are quite a few cases of people using a firearm to defend themselves against an intruder (2). Each state also has different laws regarding ‘bounty hunters’ or people who catch wanted criminals for rewards and this by doing who is commonly called a citizen arrest (3).

However, we must concur that vigilante justice should not become mob rule, as it could become something as anti-liberty as a totalitarian police force which use his force (like a mob) in an arbitrary way. History told us that the line is sometimes very thin between the concept of vigilante justice and when it is mob rule. In this case, the collectivist power of the mob is the same as any collectivist state with their police forces.


Here are the three most controversial vigilantes to have made the news:

3. Shmira: In a New York City neighborhood of Crown Heights known for his Hasidim community, a community patrol named Symra are known as the ”eyes and the ears” of the neighborhood. They only goal is to make sure that everyone is safe. Similar groups are also in London see here and here.But these groups are not without controversy, as they have been accused of very controversial tactics as mentioned here.

simpsons mob

2. Jack Idema: In 2001, Idema decided to fight to go to Afghanistan and to fight the Taliban by himself. Unfortunately for him, some allegations and some of his actions are quite controversial, whatever by being accused of torture or of running a private prison.
1.The San Juan Ixtayopan lynch mob: In the city of San Juan Ixtayopan in Mexico, some folks had decided to take justice by their own hands against supposed ”child molestors”. Only problem is that they burned a federal police car instead of burning the car of the child molestors.



(1)See the Section 3(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1967


(3)In the UK, according to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, possible to do a citizens arrest in the UK if very specific conditions are met



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