09/10/2012 06:12 BST | Updated 09/10/2012 08:53 BST

Chris Grayling Outlines Right To Attack Burglars At Conservative Party Conference

Frightened householders who over-react when confronted by burglars will get more protection under government plans, the new Justice Secretary will say on Tuesday.

Chris Grayling plans to change the law to ensure even householders who react in a way that may seem disproportionate in the cold light of day will be protected from prosecution.

It comes after Britain's most senior judge reinforced the notion that a person's home is their castle, saying furious householders have the right to get rid of burglars in their homes and are not expected to remain calm when confronted by intruders.

chris grayling

Chris Grayling will outline plans to protect frightened householders

In his first Tory Party conference speech as Justice Secretary, Grayling will also reinforce his tough-justice approach by saying all community sentences should have a punitive element.

"Being confronted by an intruder in your own home is terrifying, and the public should be in no doubt that the law is on their side," Grayling will say.

"That is why I am strengthening the current law.

"Householders who act instinctively and honestly in self defence are victims of crime and should be treated that way.

"We need to dispel doubts in this area once and for all, and I am very pleased to be today delivering on the pledge that we made in Opposition."

The Justice Secretary plans to change the law to ensure that any frightened householder who is confronted by a burglar and uses force that is reasonable in the circumstances but in the cold light of day seems disproportionate will not be guilty of an offence.

Force which is "grossly disproportionate" will still be against the law, but this is a higher bar than the current law which says force must always be proportionate.

But primary legislation will be needed before the changes can come into force and no specific parliamentary time for this has yet been set.

Explaining his plans, Grayling told the Telegraph: "The basic premise of the change is to get the law to a position where if you are in your home, and you are confronted by an intruder… then if, in the heat of the moment you use a level of force that in the cold light of day might seem disproportionate, the law will be on your side.”

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, said last month that burglary was an offence against the person, should always be treated seriously, and stressed that householders have the right to use force "to get rid of the burglar".

He was speaking after Judge Michael Pert QC said that being shot by homeowners was simply a chance that burglars took.

Lord Judge admitted that "occasionally it looks as if the householder is the criminal", but said: "Well, the householder is not in a position to exercise calm, cool, judgment.

"You're not calmly detached, you're probably very cross and you're probably very frightened, a mixture of both.

"And your judgment of precisely what you should or should not do in the circumstances cannot - as another predecessor of mine said, Lord Lane - you can't measure it in a jeweller's scale.

"You have to face the reality of how people are and how people react to these situations, and justifiably react."

Lord Judge added that measuring whether force was reasonable or not was not simply "a paper exercise six months later", and the circumstances at the time needed to be considered.

Community sentences will also be toughened up to ensure that every one of the orders handed out to 220,000 offenders each year will include a "proper punishment", Grayling will tell the conference in Birmingham.

Overhauling his predecessor Ken Clarke's plans for a rehabilitation revolution, Grayling said: "Yes, we should be looking to rehabilitate.

"But if someone has committed an offence, they also need to receive a proper punishment for it.

"That's part of how we can tackle re-offending and make these sentences really effective."

New powers to impose location monitoring for those given community orders will also be brought in and the £5,000 limit on compensation orders handed out by magistrates will also be lifted.

"I think every community sentence should contain a proper punishment, and I want to restore the public's faith in them," Grayling will go on.


"We inherited a weak, 'soft-option' programme from Labour, which had offenders working only minimal hours or simply not completing their sentences.

"We've already started to change that, and there's more we can do."