Leicester Mercury opinion: Raising the bar on rights of victims
We welcome Justice Secretary Chris Grayling's pledge to give more legal protection to householders who react with force when confronted by burglars. Mr Grayling intends to raise the bar on what level of force is lawful in such circumstances.
Currently, householders are lawfully allowed to use "reasonable" force. They are protected from prosecution even if this results in serious injury as long as they acted "honestly and instinctively" in the heat of the moment.
Mr Grayling intends to change the law so that individuals who use force which seems reasonable at the time but might appear disproportionate in the cold light of day will also be protected from prosecution. "Grossly disproportionate force" will still be outlawed.
The proposed change may seem like a subtle distinction but it is an important one as it swings the balance more towards the rights of the householder.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
It means that people who find themselves in the nightmarish scenario of being confronted by a burglar in the dead of night can have more confidence that they will be able to defend themselves and their property without fear of ending up in the dock themselves.
That is not a charter for vigilantism. Householders will not be able to murder burglars in cold blood.
This is all about what happens in the heat of the moment and making sure that the law takes into account how difficult it is to make rational decisions on the appropriate level of force when faced with a terrifying situation.
As for the "rights" of the burglar, our view is that they abrogate such claims when they choose to break into somebody's home and have only themselves to blame if they are hurt in the process.
Critics will claim that this raises the stakes and makes burglars more likely to use violence themselves. However, the stakes are already high. Anybody who is prepared to break into an occupied house is instigating a highly dangerous and potentially confrontational situation and violence can easily result.
This proposed change will simply make it clearer that the householder is to be given the benefit of any doubt in such circumstances – and that is surely how it should be.