Demand for change in law after pair held over burglary shooting
Householders will feel 'demoralised and vulnerable' following arrest of Andy and Tracey Ferrie
UPDATE, 6 SEPTEMBER: Since this item was posted, the Crown Prosecution Service has announced that no charges will be brought against Andy and Tracie Ferrie, as they had “acted in reasonable self defence” when “faced with intruders in frightening circumstances”.
THE ARREST of a married couple who are said to have shot at a gang of alleged burglars has prompted calls for David Cameron to speed up clarifications on the law about defending property.
Andy Ferrie, 35, and his wife Tracey, 43, were arrested on Sunday on suspicion of grievous bodily harm. Andy Ferrie allegedly rang 999 and told police that he had opened fire on intruders who broke into their isolated cottage in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.
The pair were released on bail yesterday, pending further inquiries, after being held for nearly three days. Two men, aged 27 and 33, have been charged with burglary, while two others, aged 23 and 31, have been bailed. Two of the alleged burglars were shot and discharged from hospital yesterday.
The case comes as the Government prepares to introduce legislation to clarify the law on a homeowner's right to defend their property from intruders – a clarification that commentators are now saying cannot come quickly enough.
The issue first rose to prominence in 1999 when farmer Tony Martin shot dead 16-year-old Fred Barras at his Norfolk home. Martin received a life sentence for murder at Norwich Crown Court in April 2000, but this was later reduced to five years for manslaughter and he was released in 2003.
Last night, Malcolm Starr, a millionaire businessman who led the campaign against Martin's conviction, said the arrest of the Ferries showed the rights of homeowners were still unclear.
He told the Daily Mail: "I do not think people should suffer the trauma of being arrested and held in a police station when they are visited by uninvited people in the middle of the night. The benefit of the doubt should lie with them."
The Ferries' local MP, the Conservative Alan Duncan, has also jumped to their defence, insisting that the "householder is the victim" and that "justice should support them and prosecute the burglars”.
A Daily Telegraph leader asked "why on earth have the Ferries been treated as potential criminals when they were the victims?" Until they have reason to believe otherwise, it says, police should assume that the victims of a burglary are entitled to protect themselves with whatever means available.
Daily Mail columnist Simon Heffer has pointed out that Cameron promised to review the law following the case of businessman Munir Hussain. Hussain pursued a burglar with a cricket bat and metal pole after he and his family were tied up and threatened with a knife. His conviction - a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence later reduced to a one-year suspended sentence - caused public outrage, compounded by the fact that his attacker received a non-custodial punishment.
Announcing plans to clarify the legislation in June last year, former Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said people were entitled to use "whatever force necessary" to protect themselves and their homes from intruders.
But Simon Heffer has said that householders will feel "demoralised and vulnerable" when seeing what has happened to the Ferries this week.
"The law still seems to take the side of the criminal against the householder, who is only defending his property," he said.
The Home Secretary should introduce a bill as quickly as possible that stops householders being arrested, said Heffer. "That seems rather like what Mr Cameron promised when Munir Hussain was convicted, and it is time he delivered."