The debate regarding the defence of property was blown open this month after an elderly pensioner stabbed and killed an intruder in his home. 78-year-old Richard Osborn-Brooks found two men inside his house in the early hours of Wednesday 4thApril, one of whom allegedly threatened the OAP with a screwdriver. In the ensuing struggle, Osborn-Brooks stabbed and killed the man, who was later identified as 37-year-old Henry Vincent, a suspect in another ongoing burglary enquiry.
Osborn-Brooks was initially arrested for manslaughter, sparking a furious reaction from his neighbours and prompting a national debate on the rights and wrongs of defending your property from intruders. Putting ethics aside, what exactly are the legal implications of such a situation? Hopefully this Q & A should shine a line on the letter of the law when it comes to protecting yourself, your loved ones and your home from criminal threat.
- Will I be prosecuted for using force against an intruder?
British law dictates that any citizen is permitted to use reasonable force to defend themselves and other people, make a citizen’s arrest or prevent a crime from occurring.
- How does the law define “reasonable force”?
What is deemed reasonable force will likely differ depending on the individual circumstances of a situation and there is no hard-and-fast definition of the term. However, if you honestly believe that the force you applied was necessary in the situation, the law should protect you further down the line.
- How does the law define “disproportionate force”?
Disproportionate force can be defined as those actions which may have seemed necessary in the heat of the moment, but with the benefit of hindsight now appear over-the-top and unreasonable. However, if you can prove that the actions seemed necessary at the time, allowances will normally be made. NB: disproportionate force is pardonable when defending a human life, but not property.
- How does the law define “grossly disproportionate force”?
Should you continue to apply force (punch, kick or otherwise assault) when it is no longer necessary to defend yourself (for example, if the intruder has become unconscious or stopped resisting), this would be deemed grossly disproportionate and against the law.
- Can I act pre-emptively or do I have to wait for the intruder to attack me?
When fearing for the safety of yourself and others inside your own home, it is not necessary to wait to be attacked. Pre-emptive reasonable force is considered legal.
- What happens if the intruder dies?
If you accidently kill an intruder in the process of defending yourself or others by using reasonable force, it is not against the law. On the other hand, using disproportionate force which ends in the death of the intruder may well lead to prosecution – so it is determined on a case by case basis.
Avoid the worst-case scenario – install CCTV
It’s probably never a good idea to engage an intruder in combat, as a human life is far more valuable than material possessions and there is always the chance that things may not turn out positively after the event. As such, the best course of action is to prevent a burglary from occurring in the first place. This can be achieved through the installation of a cutting-edge CCTV system, which can act as both deterrent and source of evidence in one neat package.
To learn more about the possibility of safeguarding your home or business premises in the Southend on Sea area, why not give Assured Security Solutions a call? We have years of experience in installing premium home security packages and can provide a free, no-obligation survey of your property prior to proceeding.