This week the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling will bring forward legislation to give householders even greater protection from burglars, via amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill.
The changes will mean someone who is confronted by a burglar and has reason to fear for their safety, or the safety of their family, and in the heat of the moment uses force that is reasonable in the circumstances but in the cold light of day seems disproportionate they will not be guilty of an offence.
Force which is grossly disproportionate will still not be permitted.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said:
‘The public should be in no doubt that the law is on their side, that is why I am toughening up the current law for those who defend themselves and their loved ones. Householders who act instinctively and honestly in self defence are victims of crime and should be treated that way. We need to dispel doubts in this area once and for all.’
The current law states that householders can use force that is reasonable in the circumstances as they believed them to be to defend themselves or their property, but states that the use of disproportionate force will never be reasonable in the circumstances.
Notes to editors:
The amendments will be introduced into the Crime and Courts Bill which is currently in Report stage in the House of Lords.
The current law permits a person to use reasonable force to defend himself (either in his home or on the street), to protect others, to prevent crime or to protect property. Section 76 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 tells courts how to assess whether the degree of force used by the defendant when acting for one of these purposes was reasonable in the circumstances as he or she genuinely believed them to be. If somebody acts honestly and instinctively in self defence that will be strong evidence that the use of force was reasonable. But the use of disproportionate force is not currently lawful in any circumstances.
The changes proposed by the Justice Secretary will mean that if a householder acts honestly to defend himself or his family or others from an intruder using force that he believed was reasonable in the circumstances but was actually disproportionate when viewed with the benefit of hindsight, he will not be guilty of an offence.
For more information contact the MoJ Press Office newsdesk on 020 3334 3536 and follow us @MoJPress on Twitter.