A joint statement released by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has clarified the laws surrounding homeowners’ rights in the event of a break-in at their property. In the statement, the possibility of finding a burglar in your home is described as “a rare and frightening prospect” which can lead to extreme reactions.
The statement advises calling the police wherever possible. However, the CPS and the NPCC acknowledge that in certain situations alerting the authorities might not be possible and so have sought to clarify the support and legal protection offered to homeowners should they be required to use force to deal with an intruder on their property. The following series of questions and answers comprises their stance on the use of force in the home.
- Will I be protected by the law in the event of using force against an intruder? The law in the UK dictates that any citizen is entitled to use reasonable force in order to defend themselves and others, prevent a crime from taking place or carry out an arrest.
- What is “reasonable force” defined as? What is considered reasonable force will differ with each specific situation, but as long as you honestly believe you were acting within your rights and in self-defence, the law should offer you protection after the event.
- What is “disproportionate force” defined as? In certain situations, the heat of the moment may cause you to use an amount of force that seemed reasonable at the time but in the cold light of day, appears disproportionate. As long as you can demonstrate to the court that this force was reasonable at the time of the incident – and that it was used in self-defence – you will be given the benefit of the doubt. Please note: disproportionate force is only deemed lawful when it is used to defend the safety of yourselves or others, not property.
- What is “grossly disproportionate force” defined as? Actions which go above and beyond what is necessary to defend yourself or others is deemed grossly disproportionate force and is unlawful. For example, if you continually punch, kick or otherwise assault an intruder after they have fallen unconscious or stopped fighting back, this could be considered as grossly disproportionate and therefore illegal.
- Do I have to wait for the intruder to attack me to act in self-defence? If you are in your own home and fear for the safety of yourself or others, you do not have to wait to be attacked. Pre-emptive force can be used to defend yourself and others and will be deemed as lawful.
- What if the burglar dies? If an intruder is inadvertently killed while you were using reasonable force to defend yourself or others, you have not broken the law. However, if you used grossly disproportionate force or if you deliberately avoided involving the police in order to seek personal retribution and the intruder died as a result, you would be liable to prosecution.
- What if I chase the intruder as they attempt to escape? If you give chase to a fleeing intruder in order to try and recover stolen goods or make a citizen’s arrest, you are still entitled to use reasonable force to do so. However, since you are no longer acting in self-defence, the amount of force which is defined as reasonable is likely to be different. For example, a single blow to incapacitate them or a flying rugby tackle to bring them down are likely to be deemed reasonable; a series of blows intended to injure, avenge or kill would not.
- Will more credence be given to my story than the intruders? While the police will always take into account the fact that the intruder provoked the situation by breaking into your property in the first place, they have a duty to investigate all cases fully to ascertain the facts. As such, each individual incident will be treated on a case-by-case basis.
- How would the investigation be handled by the CPS and the NPCC? The CPS and the NPCC have a commitment to dealing with all cases of house-breaking as swiftly and sympathetically as possible. In incidents where there is little cause for doubt or where any injuries are not serious, the case is likely to be concluded quickly. In others where the facts are less clear-cut or when your actions have resulted in serious injury or death, a longer inquest may take place. However, the CPS and the NPCC are committed to treating all parties with respect, fairness, and sympathy.
Avoid a nightmare scenario – safeguard your property
Coming home to find a burglar in your house would certainly be a fearsome occurrence and could quickly result in events spiraling out of your control. Avoid the stress that such a scenario would involve by taking every possible measure to safeguard your property, starting with the installation of a top-of-the-range home security system.
At Blackburn Alarms, we have a whole host of intruder alerts, CCTV cameras, and access control systems to increase safety and give you peace of mind. To find out more about how we can help secure your home or workplace, get in touch with us today.