The proposed law

The new law proposed by the conservative party would provide an absolute defence to householders against intruders in a building unless the force used was grossly disproportionate and had been apparent. This "grossly disproportionate" test does not constitute a new license to kill. Indeed, even under the current law, there are examples of acquittal or withdrawal of cases in which the householders have killed the intruders. Only cases where the act of self-defence is found to be unreasonable but also not grossly disproportionate will be affected by the new law.

The proposed law does not effectively address the criticism of the current law. It is no clearer than the current law. Nor would it have remedied any perceived cases of injustice. Neither the Tony Martin nor the Munir Hussain case turned on whether the act of self-defence was disproportionate and so would not have been decided differently under the proposed law. Tony Martin was convicted because the jury found that the force he used was unreasonable and that he was trying to put justice in his hands to punish the intruders.

Likewise, Munir Hussain's attack on his intruder was found to be retribution rather than self-defense. A perplexing feature of the proposed law is that only allows householders to use force in the building or part of the buildin when they are in the prevention of crime or in self-defence. The effect of this is that disproportionate force is acceptable within the confines of a building but only reasonable force is permitted outside the building.

Stepping into a building would like stepping into the colosseum, as once you step in you may risk yourself any kind of unreasonable force. In addition, the law does not apply to self-defense in other contexts, such as shopkeepers defending their commercial premises, battered women defending themselves against their abusive husbands or police dealing with offenders. The proposed law is also likely have a number of unwanted consequences. Firstly, it may result in intruders being more heavily armed so as to encounter any possible disproportionate force.

Secondly, in permitting a degree of disproportionate force, the law would to an extent, permit householders to exercise extra-judicial punishment on intruders and would encourage vigilantism. 54 This is because householders may have a legitimate argument claiming that it was their right to inflict such an unreasonable degree of force on the intruders while they are defending themselves. Conclusion As stated by Medelle, 'the law should encourage people to be reasonable, not unreasonable, to be proportionate, not disproportionate'.

The current law works well and does not need to be amended, and the criticism of it is unwarranted. Changing the standard of acceptable degree of force would not solve the perceived problems of the current law, but instead would lead to a series of unwanted consequences.


Primary Sources: Statutes Section 3 of Criminal Law Act 1967 Section 76 of Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 Primary Sources: Cases Attorney-General for Northern Ireland's Reference (no. 1 of 1975) [1977] A. C. 105, 137, 138 Beckford v R [1988] A. C. 130 Bird [1985] 1 W. L. R. 816 DPP v Morgan [1976] A. C. 182 Field [1972] Crim L. R. 435