Tuesday, 9 October 2012


Political interference in the judiciary is never welcome, and whilst the House of Commons must always be the "maker" of laws it must always fall to the Courts to determine the innocence or guilt of those in breach of the law.

That is what makes Tory Justice Secretary Chris Grayling's announcement today on the rights of homeowners to defend their own property with aggressive force so unpallatable.

In a pretty transparent attempt to cheer up the right wing of their party and in an orchestrated move to draw attention away from their own failings on the economy and on transport and on health, the right wing of the Government coalition are once again throwing raw steak at the rabid dogs within their fold.

And of course it will all end in tears, political legislation is always poor legislation, rushed through without proper scrutiny it is meant to grab the headlines rather than improve the law. At least the last time a Tory Government tried this on with their 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act only family pets lost their lives, but this time the fatalities will all be human and not all of them Burglars.

To re cap on the existing law, we all have the right to use "reasonable" force to protect our property from intruders, and "reasonable force" is of course  determined in a court of law by a judge and jury. So well does the existing law work that between 1990 and 2005 there were just 11 prosecutions for people tackling intruders in any premises, including only seven involving homes, seven cases in 25 years is hardly a national crisis
So in England and Wales, as stated above anyone can already use "reasonable" force to protect themselves or others, or to carry out an arrest or to prevent crime. Householders are also already protected from prosecution as long as they act "honestly and instinctively" in the heat of the moment.

But under the new Tory Plans the wording will be changed to protect the home owner further from prosecution, in all circumstances unless the violence used against the intruder is deemed to have been "Grossly Disproportionate" it will mean that someone who is confronted by a burglar and has reason to fear for their safety, or the safety of their family, and in the heat of the moment uses force that is reasonable in the circumstances but in the cold light of day seems disproportionate, they will not be guilty of an offence.

So how is that phrase "Grossly Disproportionate" to be determined? Well on Radio 4 this morning when asked this exact question Chris Grayling gave an example that say for instance you had beaten the intruder until they were unconscious, then it would be grossly disproportionate to then stab him to death!The Prime Minister when asked the same question by Sky News, tripped out the identical answer.

Now don't get me wrong, we all have the right to protect our own property but the government's intervention to re word and alter an already established and understood legal threshhold has just got a whole lot murkier and a hell of lot more dangerous.

Critics have already labelled the move as a licence to kill and criminal analysts have expressed concern that in response to the move Burglars are now far more likely to arm themselves when "on the Job" as a means of protecting themselves from over zealous attacks fro vigilantes. Other critics have also pointed out that not every intruder in your house is necessarily a Burglar, a whole range of public officials already have a right to enter your property including of course the police themselves.

Senior lawyers have also warned that the proposals are simply a political gimmick which risks confusing the law for all the wrong reasons.

Michael Turner QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said:

“There’s no concept in British law of allowing someone to use disproportionate force for good reasons. There is absolutely no need to change the law on self-defence as it stands. “This is about making a political headline. It would be an unnecessary piece of legislation which has real potential to be dangerous.”

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, accused Mr Grayling of showing both ignorance and disrespect for the law. She said: “Terrified householders defending themselves are already protected, so this irresponsible announcement can only be designed to make people afraid or actually encourage vigilante execution.”

But it is the potential for criminal intent that concerns me most about how this new law is to be interpreted. Imagine for instance discovering your loved one was having an affair, now under a Tory Government it would be favourable not to catch them in bed, in flagrante (on the job) instead you can just wait until your partners bit of fluff is in the Kitchen, then come in the back door and bludgeon him/her to your hearts content (to his end if you wish as long as you don't stab him afterwards) break a window from the outsdie to stage a break in and then just inform the Police that "Sorry Guv, I honestly thought he was a burglar"

Likewise the new law could lead to a whole new series of "Home Delivery" attacks and killings, just arrange for the person involved to be at your house, again stage a break i, beat them to a pulp and say once again, "Sorry Guv, I just came home and he was in the house"

The Tories at Conference this week have avoided thus far in using the word "Growth" but let us be clear, with crazy mad cap schemes like this we will undoubtedly see lots of growth. a growth in vigilantism, a growth in weapons being used in burglaries, a growth in the number of defence pleas against attacks at home cases, and of course an inevitable growth in the numbers injured and killed on both sides, home owners and burglars.

Lets just hope it doesn't lead to a growth in votes for a discredited party of the backs of a Daily Mail reading non thinking public. And what will happen next year, heaven forbid if this government are still in power and they need to knee jerk even further to the right? Well how about a bit of Israeli law? legislation there allows home owners to shoot at will at anyone who they reasonably believed to have any criminal intent!

I know I shouldn't put ideas into the heads of the politically insane, but a desperate government can be grossly disproportionate in it's actions


  1. Very good Tony, I agree, will just point out that Shami Chakrabarti is a woman not a man!


  2. Many thanks, I will correct it , I always get my Chakrabartis mixed up, i.e. Suma and Shakri (Suma is president of the the European Bank for Regeneration and Development) incidently it is a Bengali name meaning King of Kings

  3. tony.
    sorry just checking as can not get through on your blog of the 8 oct.

    1. Anon, it's seems to be working fine, sometimes posts will boa box to be moderated if they contain expletives, I freed a couple up yesterday so hopefully your comments are now up to date




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