Updated: Nov 1, 2021
UK law states you can use “reasonable force” to protect yourself or others if a crime occurs in your own home.
A retiree was told he would not be charged after being arrested on suspicion of murdering a thief. It re-kindled the debate about the rights of anyone to defend their property. So what are these freedoms?
It means that, instinctively, you can use any object or weapon to prevent the intruder from attacking you or your family. Be it any style of self-defence, a gun, knife, heavy object, bottle, Police Preferred Personal Attack Alarm, Torch Super Bright 10000 Lumens, Farb Gel "Criminal Identifier", The Original Worlds Loudest Whistle up to 142db
However, the law does not make clear what is considered to be “reasonable force”. It is simply not defined by the law. Nevertheless, if a person does what they “deem to be necessary at the time”, there is considered to be “strong evidence” they are acting within the scope of the law.
However, having overcome the intruder and are no longer in danger, if they persist in their endeavour to injure someone instead of letting the police intervene, they can be prosecuted.
The Crown Prosecutor's Office recommends its prosecutors inquire about the necessity and reasonableness of the use of force in this situation.
The advice makes clear it is not necessary to be attacked before you can protect oneself. That is to say, you can initiate the attack yourself.
In Scotland, although some of the jargon is different, the basic principles are identical. Scottish criminal lawyer Grazia Robertson said: “The key is if you beat the score”.
Courts do take into account the stress involved at the precise moment of any confrontation, and the fear both parties may feel. Always remember, criminals don't want to be recognised, they all hate to be caught, and they fear being injure! Therefore, burglars who cannot escape, that is to say, run away, will probably fight tooth and nail, having arrived on the scene fully prepared to take such action.
He “cased the joint” in advance! He has come up with an effective plan! Did he see an alarm system? Did he see open windows, particularly on the ground floor? Do they think the owners are absent? Are window fitted with locks? Do access doors have 5 lever mortice locks? In other words, have you done your own homework to protect your home and your family?
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Do you have a phone by the bed? Are your valuables hidden - money - jewellery?
Several high profile cases can be brought to mind where jail sentences were imposed for assaulting burglars.
In 1999, a 16-year-old intruder, Fred Barrass, was shot and killed by Norfolk farmer Tony Martin. The burglar was running away and was consequently shot in the back. Tony Martin was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, but filed an appeal, and the sentence was reduced to manslaughter. He served three years in prison.
In 2008, a businessman, Munir Hussain, hunted down and used a cricket bat to attack one of the three intruders who had attacked and tied up his family. He was subsequently sentenced to 30 months in prison. The assailant in question, Walid Saleem, was sentenced more leniently than Hussein, who was convicted of causing serious bodily harm. An appeal resulted in his sentence being reduced.
Both cases sparked a national debate, which in turn motivated the government to establish better protection for those who defend their property.
The use of excessive force is still illegal, but the standard is higher than was the previous “reasonable force” test.
The new recommendations to Crown prosecutors was challenged by the family of a burglar in 2016. Denby Collins, a thief who fell into a coma after being subdued by a householder in Gillingham, Kent.
His family maintained the law violated Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to life. Nevertheless, the High Court rejected their request.
However, the judges stated that the law did not “give property owners unlimited power to determine the extent to which they could force to defend themselves against intruders.” The jury concluded the amount of force employed was reasonable in the circumstances.
If you require any more information on this subject, or how to protect your home and your family, by all means contact me. I will always endeavour to help in any way I can. However, there are many websites available, from crimestoppers-uk.org, police.uk, ourwatch.org.uk, and many more.