A householder's right to defend themselves from burglars has been set in stone with the publication of new guidance which states the do's and don'ts of tackling intruders. While the law falls short of declaring 'open season' on burglars, the Mail looks at how far residents in Wrexham can go to protect their lives and property.
BURGLARS will be thinking twice about breaking into Wrexham homes after the Government advised householders they would probably be justified in using weapons in necessary acts of self-defence.
The Crown Prosecution Service and Association of Chief Police Officers have jointly issued new guidelines which clarify the concept of 'reasonable force'.
The move follows claims by the Conservative party that the law was balanced in favour of the criminal rather than the victim and demanded that the law be changed to introduce the concept of 'grossly disproportionate force' which would have meant that only in the most extreme circumstances would a victim who 'defends' themselves be prosecuted.
But the Government argued that the existing self-defence law already gives sufficient scope for householders to defend themselves and an analysis of cases over the past 15 years revealed just 11 instances where householders were prosecuted for overstepping the mark - including an incident in which a householder tied up a burglar, threw him in a pit and set fire to him with petrol.
Under the new law, as long as a householder can demonstrate that the action they took against a burglar was instinctive and deemed necessary at the time to protect themselves, their family and their property, weapons such as iron bars, baseball bats, knives and even guns could be justifiably used.
But, crucially, a householder could face prosecution if they continue to use violence against an intruder who has already been incapacitated or is unconscious - 'getting the boot in' after the burglar is down would be tantamount to an act of 'revenge' or 'punishment' which falls outside the boundaries of legality.
Part of the aim of the publication of a new leaflet is to assure people that the police and CPS will carry out investigations into acts of self-defence against home intruders as 'quickly and sympathetically as possible'.
It will also ensure that any citizen who confronts a criminal in defence of their property, themselves or another, and, who uses reasonable and proportionate force, does so in the knowledge that they will be fully supported by the Criminal Justice System.
Ken Macdonald QC, the director of public prosecutions, said: 'The law is on the side of householders. We aim to reassure them that if they act honestly and instinctively, in the heat of the moment, this will be the strongest evidence that they have acted lawfully and in self-defence.
'Prosecutions of householders for tackling intruders are extremely rare - only a very few in the past 15 years.
'Even where householders have badly injured or even killed burglars, the CPS has declined to prosecute unless they have used wholly excessive force.
'However, there has been concern and uncertainty over the force that householders are able to use, so we need to explain how we deal with these sensitive cases and give some guidance on what we mean by reasonable force.
'CPS lawyers will prioritise these cases to ensure that we make decisions as quickly as possible.'
Chris Fox, ACPO president, said: 'We want everyone to clearly understand that they can use force to protect themselves, or others.
'The force used should be reasonable force. We want everyone to understand that while we have to investigate the circumstances of such events. We will always remember that anyone engaged in a criminal act should expect reasonable force to be used against them by their victim.'
Home Secretary Charles Clarke said: 'The Government announced last month that following discussions with chief police officers, the director of public prosecutions and the CPS, the law on self-defence was sound. I firmly believe it is the right of every British citizen to protect himself, his family and his home from intruders of any kind.'
He added: 'Ken McDonald, the director of public prosecutions, has made it clear that householders will only be prosecuted if they use very excessive force in defending their home against intruders.
'The CPS's informal survey also demonstrates that the number of such cases brought before the courts is extremely low. Ken McDonald also said that homeowners not prosecuted include those who have shot and stabbed burglars.
Mr Clarke added: 'The key issue now is ensuring that householders understand the law. I very much welcome the leaflet that the CPS and ACPO have published. It sets out in plain language what householders' rights are and the level of force they can use when confronted by an intruder.
'This is essential to the Government's commitment to making the law on self-defence clearer to householders.
'It is vital that the public understand the law and have confidence in the criminal justice system.'