Right to use force on burglars 'a victory for householders'
From hug-a-hoodie to bash-a-burglar: new law will make even 'disproportionate force' acceptable
NEWLY appointed Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is to give homeowners the right to attack burglars without fear of prosecution. The new law will be introduced "at the first opportunity" to offer protection to those who come across intruders in their homes.
Grayling, who is due to outline his plans in a speech to the Tory party conference today, told The Daily Telegraph he wanted to "finally lay the issue to rest once and for all".
Reasonable and even 'disproportionate' force can now be used against burglars, and only those who take 'grossly disproportionate' action - for example, stabbing an intruder who is already unconscious - will face legal action.
"Being confronted by an intruder in your own home is terrifying," said Grayling, "and the public should be in no doubt that the law is on their side.
"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, and I am very pleased to be today delivering on the pledge that we made in opposition."
The move comes weeks after a couple in Leicestershire were arrested and held for almost three days for shooting at two men they discovered in the kitchen of their home. They were released and a judge later told the burglars that being shot by Andy Ferrie had been a "form of summary justice".
The issue has been a political hot potato since 1999 when farmer Tony Martin was prosecuted for shooting dead a burglar he discovered on his farm.
"The long campaign to give householders the right to use maximum force against burglars will end in victory today," says the Daily Mail. "The new rules could, in some cases, allow for lethal force."
However, there will not be a free-for-all. "Grayling stressed that he did not wish to move towards an American-style system where people were effectively free to kill anyone entering their property," reports the Telegraph.
The announcement signals a tougher approach to law and order, explains The Guardian. "Grayling's move is designed to show that No 10 is heeding the concerns of key voters, hailed by ministers as 'strivers', who fear the government is losing sight of law and order issues as it grapples with the fiscal deficit."
Or as the BBC's political editor Nick Robinson commented on the Today programme this morning, the Tories have moved from "hug a hoodie" to "bash a burglar".
Sky notes that the move comes after "Britain's most senior judge reinforced the notion that a person's home is their castle, saying furious householders have the right to get rid of burglars in their homes and are not expected to remain calm when confronted by intruders".
But the law will not change overnight. "Primary legislation will be needed before the changes can come into force and no specific parliamentary time for this has yet been set," says Sky. ·