Statutes on Criminal Law

Following the Martin case, several measures have been taken to try and clarify the law. One of these is, The Joint Public Statement from the Crown Prosecution Service and the Association of Chief Police Officers on Guidance published on the use of force by homeowners against intruders. 16 This is a leaflet or it can be accessed online and is laid out in a frequently asked question-answer format explaining what the objective is and what is considered to be reasonable force and what is considers as being excessive force.

However after reading the leaflet myself I still feel that it doesn't make the law any clearer to the average layman giving a vague definition of self-defence. 17 Furthermore, the main objective of the statement was to make the law of self-defence clearer to the homeowner which I feel has been illustrated indistinctively, giving the homeowner a very basic idea of what he can or can't do but doesn't really provide a clear definition of the law on self-defence.

On the one hand the very basic layout is a good idea as a lot of people find it difficult to understand the technical elements of the law but on the other hand it just isn't thorough enough. The Partial Defences to Murder document published by the Law Commission is another significant mark on the development of the law of self-defence. The document contains a redrafted proposal for the defence of provocation which covers the use of excessive force in cases of self-defence.

It has been stated that the Homeowner would be guilty of manslaughter which would allow the judge to have a number of available sentencing options, including life imprisonment. This would act as a half-and-half defence in that if successful, a plea of self-defence would result in complete acquittal whereas on the other hand if the new legislation is affirmed as the law, the defendant who uses excessive force against an intruder would still be punished, but on a lower scale to a cold blooded killer, like the notorious Australian criminal 'Chopper' Read.

This would no doubt be considered a more equitable form of applying the law as it will the fact that the defendant was in fact trying to defend himself/herself or another. Even so the fact that he/she has committed murder would still be taken into consideration and the punishment would be a just and unprejudiced. The third prime law reform to arise from the Martin case was the Criminal Law (Amendment) (Householder Protection) Bill 2004-2005.

However the Bill was delayed and was not passed but if it had been passed it would have adapted s. 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 by adding two further subsections after clause 1: '(1A) Where a person uses force in the prevention of crime or in the defence of persons or property on another who is in the building or part of a building having entered as a trespasser or is attempting to enter, that person shall not be guilty of any offence in respect of the use of that force unless- (a) The degree of force was grossly disproportionate, and (b) This was or ought to have been apparent to the person using such force.

No prosecution shall be brought against a person subject to subsection (1A) without the leave of the Attorney General. '18 The main purpose of the Bill was to replace the 'reasonable force' rule with a less complex rule of 'grossly disproportionate' and would mean that a homeowners unreasonable reaction towards an intruder would acceptable as long as it's rational and not out of proportion. This Bill would have definitely given the homeowner a wider spread of options when applying force but still would not give them the complete freedom to do as they please, a much fairer way to deal with an accused person.

To summarise the law of self-defence is still somewhat ambiguous and with the rule of 'reasonable force' proving to be a difficult and at times prejudiced custom there is plenty of room for improvement. Although there have been several attempts to re-draft and clarify this rule there has been little progress and for now the state consider the standard of reasonable force set out in Palmer still provides sufficient guidance to the jury in deciding whether or not the defendant has used reasonable or excessive force.

Although numerous attempts have been made to make the law for homeowners defending their homes more humane none of them have been successful largely due to the fact that more and more people would plead self-defence even if their actions were undoubtably irrational and highly unreasonable. Overall I feel that we are definitely heading in the right direction and with Italy passing a new bill allowing homeowners to shoot intruders without fear of prosecution the pressure is ever increasing.

Even so I feel that we need to consider an approach less severe then allowing the homeowner to shoot an intruder, we have lived in Britain in harmony for centuries without the need for guns and I still feel that it is possible to improve the law on self-defence for homeowners without the need to introduce firearms freedom, furthermore the state would be obliged to allow people to purchase and keep guns in their homes without too many consequences increasing other crimes.


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