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Defence of ‘disproportionate force’ rippled with many loopholes

Date: (29 April 2013)    |    

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The new laws which were supposed to give householder the right to fight back against burglars has been condemned as farce because it seem to be riddled with loopholes.
The new defence of disproportionate force’ which has come into force last week would not be applicable in many cases and official guidance to that effect has been sent to judges, prosecutors and police. Homeowners cannot use such defence:
• When an intruder is found in the garden a homeowner cannot use the defence nor chase them out the fight has to be indoors.
• Shopkeepers can only get away with such defence of disproportionate attack on robbers if they live above their shop, and only if the two parts of the building are connected.
• Shop assistants and customers cannot get involved in the violence, unless their lover ones happen to be living in the store.
• Householders cannot use the defence if they are only trying to protect their property, rather than trying to defend themselves or their family.
The document in itself admits that the provision does not give householder freedom to use disproportionate force in every case they may be confronted by an intruder.
In a CCTV footage released this week showed how risky it is for the shop staff is prepared to take to defend their livelihoods. Thurairagh Pirabahuran used his seat to hit gunman Sheldon Green as he tried to rob his store in Ilford, Essex.
But the brave shopkeeper does not live above the premises, so he is not eligible to take the defence under the new law and he would be still prosecuted if police decided he had used ‘grossly disproportionate’ force.
The critics have said that the detail of the law which has come into force exposed Mr Grayling’s tough language as worthless. It only means that terrified owners and small businesses would still face possible prosecution if they lash out at criminals.
Malcolm Starr, a spokesman for jailed burglary victim Tony Martin, said it was absolute farce and common sense must prevail by simply preventing homeowners from being arrested as soon as an intruder is attacked. Just drawing new laws was not the solution to the problem Starr added. People seem to get arrested immediately and don’t get the benefit of the doubt – it’s the wrong way round.’
Campaigners have been calling for greater protection for burglary victims for years, prompted by a series of cases. One such case was of Tony Martin, whose farmhouse had been repeatedly broken into, was convicted of murder after he shot two intruders in 1999, killing one. On appeal his sentence was cut.
Last September a couple spent two nights in custody after firing a shotgun at intruders, but Andy and Tracey Ferrie were not prosecuted.
A clause on self-defence was added to the Crime and Courts Bill, which gained Royal Assent on Thursday. But a circular sent this month by the Ministry of Justice has made the limitations of the legislation very clear.