Once again what householders can and can't do to defend them-selves against intruders is in the news and once again there is debate about the fairness of the laws on self-defence and whether the law is fair to innocent home owners. I think that the law is fair and does strike the right balance between allowing people to defend them-selves and revenge attacks.
Most people believe the law to be against people who have to defend themselves - I don't think it is
I am not qualified to give legal advice - what I know about the laws on self-defence through passing police exams about criminal law. I think I have a pretty clear idea what the law says and the laws do support someone who needs to defend themselves.
The Crown Prosecution Service has put their self-defence guide to prosecutors on their website and it does give a clear picture of what you can and cannot do.
You can use reasonable force to defend yourself. Some people seem worried about is reasonable - well one good thing (for someone genuinely defending themselves) is that you are not expected to get it exactly right you are not expected to 'weigh it up to a nicety' of exactly how much force is needed in the midst of an attack. Let's face it if you are scared and fighting off an attack then you can't measure exactly the force you are using - and the law doesn't expect you to.
Someone defending themselves can actually still have the protection of the law if they mistakenly believe they are being attacked providing they can demonstrate that it was a genuine belief. If you really believed you were in extreme danger and you defended yourself then you can still be protected by the law even if you were actually wrong about being in danger.
Tony Martins conviction for shooting a burglar was widely seen by the public as an injustice - another case of a man convicted for defending himself But the crucial point - as I understand it - was that he was convicted because he was found to have shot and killed one of two burglars as they were running away - he was no longer defending himself - he didn't need to at that point! The conviction of Munir Husssain for hitting a burglar with a cricket bat was a similar situation - the person he hit was apparently running away at the time!
Even though these situations are horribly difficult for the innocent person being attacked there is a golden rule as far as I can see - do not shoot or hit or seek revenge on people who are running away if you want the protection of the law. That is not self -defence - it is an assault!
Vincent Cook was not prosecuted after he stabbed an intruder at his home to death. Nazir Afzal, chief prosecutor for the North West, said: 'It is clear to me that Mr Cooke did what he honestly and instinctively believed was necessary to protect himself, his home and his family from intruders' Again it must have been a terrible experience for Mr Cook but he was not prosecuted which was right.
And there have been other cases where people who have killed in self-defence have not been prosecuted.
Why do people get arrested if they are eventually found innocent? If a burglar or an attacker in the street in killed then the Police have to investigate the incident even if in the end it is found to be the result of an innocent person defending themselves. Anyone's death is a serious matter and has to be investigated - even if they were up to no good at the time. Just because someone is arrested it does not mean the Police think he or she is guilty - an arrest is common in investigations. It is the final decision as to whether they are charged or not that is the critical thing.
As far as I am concerned if I thought I was in danger from an attacker or an intruder than I would do what I felt I had to do in the circumstances to protect myself. If the other person then tried to run away or was running away I know that I would most likely be breaking the law if I hit them or shot them (not that I have a gun) once the danger was over and I think that is fair enough.
Other people might want a law that allows us to punish offenders ourselves - but I don't and we should not confuse self-defence with revenge or punishment for a crime.