Almost all Swindonians would confront a burglar if they were faced with an intruder in their home, a recent Facebook poll found.
If this nightmare became a reality and you were faced with an intruder, what are your rights?
Are you able to defend yourself and your property? What about if you were to injure the burglar whilst protecting your property?
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has answered key questions about where you stand under the law:
Where possible, call the police. If you are unable here is some guidance on what you can or cannot do:
Does the law protect you?
Anyone can use reasonable force to protect themselves or others, or carry out and arrest or prevent a crime.
What is ‘reasonable force’?
As a general rule the more extreme the circumstances the more force you can lawfully use in self defence.
Do you have to wait to be attacked?
No. If you are in your home and fear for yourself or others, the law doesn’t require you to wait to be attacked before using defensive, ‘reasonable’ force.
How far does protection under law go?
If you do something that you believe necessary, that is the best evidence of you acting lawfully and in self defence – even if you use something to hand as a weapon.
What if you chase them as they run off?
You are not acting in self-defence now so the same force may not be reasonable but you can still use reasonable force to recover property and make a citizen’s arrest.
What is reasonable force if you are chasing them?
The guidance says to consider your own safety and whether police have been called but a rugby tackle or a single blow would probably be reasonable. Anything more could lead you into trouble.
What if the intruder dies?
If you have acted in reasonable self defence, as described above, and the intruder dies, you will still have acted lawfully. However, if, for example:
- having knocked someone unconscious, you then decided to further hurt or kill
them to punish them; or
- you knew of an intended intruder and set a trap to hurt or to kill them rather
than involve the police,
you would be acting with very excessive and gratuitous force and could be
Will police and CPS believe the intruder rather than you?
Police weigh all facts when investigating, including the fact the intruder caused the situation to arise.