The Crime Prevention Website

Yesterday at the Conservative Party Conference Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced he is to change the law “at the first opportunity” to give stronger legal safeguards to those who use force to protect their family or property.

As I expected the various on-line polls I’ve looked at today all give 90+% support for the proposed changes and so it seems to me that the Conservatives achieved their goal to take some of the heat off the Chancellor!

So, why am I (a retired policeman and promoter of crime prevention) unimpressed and somewhat cynical about the announcement?

Well let’s go back to 2004 when I was putting the finishing touches to my crime prevention book, Home Security- the complete handbook.

Under ‘Useful legal information’ Heather and I wrote the following about tackling criminals and using reasonable force.....

Recent public concern about what force you can use when confronted by burglars has led the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to release the following advice: [CPS advice in italics]

Anyone can use reasonable force to protect themselves or others, or to carry out an arrest, or to prevent a crime. You are not expected to make fine judgements 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. Normally, the more extreme the circumstances and the fear felt, the more force you can lawfully use in self-defence.

When in your home the law does not require you to wait to be attacked before using defensive force yourself. If an intruder dies you would still have acted lawfully if you acted in reasonable self-defence.  However, if having knocked an intruder unconscious you decided to further hurt or kill them; or you knew of an intended burglary into your home and set a trap to hurt or kill them rather than involve the police you would be acting with excessive and gratuitous force and could be prosecuted.

If you chase after them you may use reasonable force to arrest the intruder or recover your property. ‘A rugby tackle or single blow would probably be reasonable. Acting out of malice and revenge with the intent of inflicting punishment through injury or death would not.  

I don’t know about you, but I found the CPS words pretty easy to understand and do note the CPS phrase ‘in the heat of the moment’, which was being used by Mr Grayling – a lot - during his interviews.

Now, having listened to Mr Grayling on the TV yesterday and today I don’t really understand how his changes to the law are going to make much of a difference to what we already have

If you shoot a burglar in your house then expect to get arrested and interviewed over a couple of days, regardless of any change in the law.  Why? - Because the police have a duty to investigate a death in such circumstances and they don’t know who you are from Adam, or your relationship with the person lying dead on your lounge carpet.  For all they know you could be someone with a grudge against the so-called intruder and so you invited him to the house and then shot him and then alleged that he was an intruder.

If you chase the burglar down the road, arrest him and then beat him half to death with a metal pole expect to go to jail. (This happened)

If you shoot a burglar in the back with your shotgun whilst he’s running away from your house expect to be nicked and charged and found guilty by your peers on the jury (This happened)

If I wake up at two in the morning and find a burglar rifling through my wife’s jewellery I shall hit him several times with my baseball bat until he is no further a threat to me or my family (I would hope to get the first blow in of course).  I will expect to be arrested and questioned for some time about the incident, but I would certainly not be charged with any offence, even if he died – and that’s without a change in the law.

I shall now go and lie down for a few minutes


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