What are your rights in tackling burglars?" width="976" height="549">
Police have been carrying out forensic searches at the scene where an alleged burglar died
The arrest of a man over the death of an alleged burglar has reignited the debate about a person's right to defend their home. So what are those rightsThis means that in the "heat of the moment", they can use an object as a weapon or stop an intruder from escaping by, for example, tackling them to the ground.What constitutes "reasonable force" is not defined by law but if a person did what they "honestly thought was necessary at the time" then there would be "strong evidence" they acted within the law.But a person could be prosecuted if they carried on attacking an intruder after they are no longer in danger or if they planned to trap someone rather than involve the police.
The Crown Prosecution Service advises its prosecutors to ask if force was necessary and reasonable in the circumstances.
'Over the score'
The guidance also says there is no need for a person to actually be attacked before they may defend themselves.In Scotland, although some of the terminology is different the principle is basically the same."It's about whether you went over the score," said Grazia Robertson, a Scottish criminal lawyer."The courts do take into account the heat of the moment and the fear the person may have felt."
Tony Martin shot and killed a teenage burglar in 1999
There have been several high profile cases in which people have been jailed for attacking burglars.In 1999, Norfolk farmer Tony Martin shot dead 16-year-old intruder Fred Barrass as the teenager fled. He was jailed for life for murder but appealed and had the verdict reduced to manslaughter, serving three years in jail.In 2008, Buckinghamshire businessman Munir Hussain was jailed for 30 months after chasing and attacking with a cricket bat one of three intruders who had tied up his family. The intruder, Walid Saleem, received a lesser sentence than Hussain, who was convicted of grievous bodily harm. This was later reduced on appeal.Both cases caused a national debate which in turn prompted the government in 2012 to offer better protection to those defending their homes."Grossly disproportionate" force remains against the law but the bar was set higher than the previous "proportionate" force test.
Munir Hussain was convicted of grievous bodily harm
The new law was challenged in 2016 by the family of Denby Collins, a burglar who was left in a coma after being restrained by a householder in Gillingham, Kent.His family argued the law contravened Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights which protects a person's right to life, but the High Court rejected their claim.The judges said, however, that the law did not "give householders carte blanche in the degree of force they use against intruders in self-defence" and it was ultimately for a jury to decide if a "householder's action was reasonable".
Analysis: Straightforward law but complex cases
By BBC legal correspondent Clive ColemanIn 2013, the then-Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said the government "must be on the side of the law abiding majority" and that householders acting in self-defence should be treated as "victims of crime".In short, reasonable force in the heat of the moment for self-defence would not be a crime even if in the cold light of day it seemed disproportionate.That was challenged in 2016 by the family of a burglar who was left in a coma, but the High Court agreed with the government that a disproportionate level of force can be used where a householder believes it to be necessary. The law is straightforward but each case has to be judged on its facts, and those facts will often be complex.
Crown Prosecution Service
London violence
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