HOUSEHOLDERS AND THE USE OF FORCE AGAINST INTRUDERS.
It is a rare and frightening prospect to be confronted by an intruder in your own home and there is some confusion about householders defending themselves within the law.
Wherever possible you should call the police. The following questions and answers give some guidance on how the police and Crown Prosecution Service would deal with any such events:
- Does the law protect me? What is reasonable force? Anyone can use reasonable force to protect themselves or others, or to carry out an arrest or to prevent 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.
- Do I have to wait to be attacked? No. Not if you are in your own home and in fear of yourself or others. In those circumstances the law does not require you to wait to be attacked before using defensive force yourself.
- What if the intruder dies? If you have acted in reasonable self defence as descibed above and the intruder dies you will still have acted lawfully. However, if for example:
you would be acting with very excessive and gratuitous force and could be prosecuted.
- Having knocked someone unconscious, you then decide to further hurt or kill them to punish them; or
- You knew of an intended intruder and set a trap to hurt or kill them rather than involve the police -
- What if I chase them as they run off? This situation is different as you are no longer acting in self defence and the same degree of force may not be reasonable. However, you are still allowed to use reasonable force to recover your property and make a citizen's arrest. You should consider your own safety and, for example, whether the police have been called. A rugby tackle or a single blow would probably be reasonable. Acting out of malice and revenge with the intention of inflicting punishment through injury or death would not.
- Would you believe the intruder rather than me? The police weigh all the facts when investigating an incident. This includes the fact that the intruder caused the situation to arise in the first place. The police have a duty to investigate incidents involving a death or injury. Things are not always as they seem. On occasions people pretend a burglary to cover up other crimes such as a fight between drug dealers.
- How would the police and CPS handle the investigation and treat me? These cases are investigated and reviewed as swiftly as possible with an experienced investigator overseeing the case. It is a fact that very few householders have ever been prosecuted for actions resulting from the use of force against intruders.
If you would like to have details of neighbourhood Watch please contact.
Clive Stewart, Essex Police, Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator
Braintree District. Tel: 01376 556 282.