Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Some of the many replies to the Fear thread below allude to public concern that victims who defend themselves against attacks or burglaries face a strong possibility of being prosecuted. I am grateful to the LexisNexis site for the following (edited by me) :-

The Bill (to change the law on resisting intruders) received early rebuffs Government, signalling it will face a struggle to become law. Under the plan, only those who use "grossly disproportionate force" against an intruder would leave themselves liable to prosecution. At present, the law allows homeowners to use only "reasonable force" in defence of themselves and their homes.

A Home Office minister said: "This law is, I'm afraid, just showing off. It is not necessary. A homeowner who is attacked by a criminal has the right to use reasonable force to protect themselves." The Bill's proposer said her Bill would restore the balance between the victim and the intruder. "Innocent people will know that defence of their property will not put them at risk of charges."

In an informal trawl of CPS records, only 11 cases of this type were found in the past 15 years. CPS also released examples of cases in which it decided not to prosecute because the force was considered to be "reasonable" self-defence.

These were cases in which prosecutions were brought:
A man who laid in wait for a burglar in Cheshire, caught him, tied him up, beat him, threw him into a pit and set fire to him.
A number of people trespassed on private land to go night-time fishing. They were approached by a man with a shotgun who threatened to shoot them. They ran away but one of the men was shot in the back with 40 shotgun pellets. A householder lay in wait for a burglar who tried to break into his shed and shot him in the back. A householder who disturbed men trying to steal his car peppered them with gunshot. A householder shot a burglar who tried to steal from his shed. The householder had lain in wait and shot him in the back. A householder hit a burglar with a shovel several times, leaving him with brain damage. Two men stabbed an intruder who broke into a house. The widely-reported case of Norfolk farmer Tony Martin, who killed a teenage boy by shooting him in the back as he fled after an attempted burglary at his remote farmhouse. Occupiers of commercial premises chased and stabbed a burglar after he fled. A householder attacked a man trying to steal his car. A householder stabbed an intruder.

As for cases in which no prosecution was brought, these included:

Robbery at a newsagent's in Greater Manchester. One of the two robbers died after being stabbed by the newsagent. The CPS did not prosecute the newsagent, but prosecuted the surviving robber who was jailed for six years. A householder returned home to find a burglar in his Derbyshire home. There was a struggle during which the burglar hit his head on the driveway and later died. No prosecution of the householder, who was clearly acting in self-defence. Armed robbers threatened a Hertfordshire pub landlord and barmaid with extreme violence. The barmaid escaped, fetched her employer's shotgun and shot at least one of the intruders. The barmaid was not prosecuted. Two burglars entered a house in Lincolnshire armed with a knife and threatened a woman. Her husband overcame one of the burglars and stabbed him. The burglar died. There was no prosecution of the householder but the remaining burglar was convicted. A middle-aged Lancashire woman took a baseball bat off a burglar and hit him over the head, fracturing his skull. The burglar made a complaint, but the CPS refused to prosecute.

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