For & Against: Using force to defend your home
For & Against: Using force to defend your home
"Faced with an intruder on our property, should there be any limits on our actions? Or do burglars leave their human rights at the door?"
George Hehyes, Website administrator for Arm Britain www.armbritain.com
It has been a long established common law right to be able to defend both yourself and your property using force to prevent loss or harm to either. Only recently have various Acts of Parliament and court cases obscured this.
It is my opinion, and one which is shared by the wider public that a 'Castle Doctrine', much like what is present in many European and North American states needs to override all current legislation and enshrine an absolute right of defence of the home by its occupier, with no duty to retreat.
The right to defend yourself and your property however, is of barely any use when you do not have the means to adequately defend either. Starting from around the middle of the last century, various Acts of Parliament pandering to the tired mantra of 'tough on crime' have systematically disabled a person's right to arm him or herself in preparation of an attack.
'Offensive weapon' has become an absolute term in law, which even includes a walking stick in public should it be intended to be used defensively by its owner. It is clear that if a person's right of self-defence is to be protected, the right to arm one's self in both public and private needs to be once again enshrined back into law.
Defensive use of weapons has a long history of acceptance in Britain. Carrying a firearm was once a very normal and common thing to do. As late as 1951, 'self-defence' was the most common reason given on applications for a pistol certificate.
Today, should someone even so much as possess a can of pepper spray, commonly sold on key-chains in France, they would be committing a serious crime. Prohibitions such as these simply disarm law-abiding citizens while facilitating criminals with an unarmed prey.
In the case of burglaries, having to rely on what a court would determine to be 'reasonable force' when defending your property has clearly led to injustices.
It is only natural to assume that someone forcibly entering your living space does so with bad intentions, and that neutralizing the threat using whatever force is necessary should not result in charges being brought against the home owner.
Further more, I strongly believe that it is not in the public interest to prosecute a home owner should it be felt a burglar was subjected to disproportionate force during the course of a criminal intrusion, and this should be made clear in law.
Tom Midlane, Mancunian Matters reporter
The law as it stands gives homeowners a right to self-defence, allowing them to use ‘reasonable force’ to protect themselves.
A common criticism of this right is that it forces the vulnerable homeowner to make complex calculations in a situation in which they feel frightened and violated. Does the law really expect an old lady who picks up a poker to hit an intruder who is attacking them to stop and think about what is appropriate? The answer is no.
Guidelines issued by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) specifically state that homeowners are not expected to make snap judgements as to what constitutes a ‘reasonable’ amount of force.
As the CPS guideline says: "You are not expected to make fine judgments over the level of force you use in the heat of the moment. So long as you only do what you honestly and instinctively believe is necessary in the heat of the moment, that would be the strongest evidence of you acting lawfully and in self-defence.
This is still the case if you use something to hand as a weapon." The CPS doesn’t even restrict the use of pre-emptive force, so even if the homeowner makes the first move they are covered, as long as the force used isn’t excessive.
In assessing whether it was necessary to use force, prosecutors are asked to bear in mind the period of time in which the person had to decide whether to act against another who he/she thought to be committing an offence.
Being confronted by an intruder is a terrifying experience. No sane person would argue that you should be asked to flop passive and jellylike while an intruder threatens you or your family. But it is important that the law does not encourage vigilantes, lynch mobs or revenge attacks.
Lying in wait for a burglar and caving their head in with a rock is probably not justified to protect your home.
Also, it is important that the law recognises that not all intruders are murderous rapists, some are just young teenagers looking for money to feed a drug addiction. Having your possessions stolen is upsetting and traumatic, but is the loss of a wallet or some jewellery worth a life?
More related stories: