Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 11 October 2012


It is not the biggest issue before us right now, but it does symbolise whether or not our law is based on common sense or modern whim. I refer to the right to defend yourself and your property should you be one of the tiny minority ever having your home burgled whilst you are in it.

The law has been settled on this for hundreds of years – you are entitled to use reasonable force. If you are scared and have a shotgun to hand, like many farmers would have, or a knife, you are entitled to use it in the heat of the moment. If the burglars run off and you walk calmly down the road and catch them at the bus stop and blast them into Kingdom Come that is not reasonable force.

But our law became rather blurred over the past twenty years – reflecting societal change when decision makers for a season seemed to favour the perpetrators rather than the victims. There were high profile cases where the home owners were arrested, sometimes charged with assault and in one case convicted.

Happily the mood of the times and recent cases are swinging back towards common sense. If a person chooses to cross your threshold without your permission with the intention of stealing from you, in my opinion they leave almost all of their human rights at the door. Why should you not have the right to defend yourself robustly and if you over-react – because you are scared witless, because your children are asleep in the next room, because your wife is in danger – the law should recognise that possibility and give you the benefit of the doubt.

I was pleased to see this week's announcement by the Lord Chancellor that the government is intending to clarify the law to make this clear.

Of course one other thing needs to change, namely the attitude of the police.  It is no good having robust laws if politically correct risk-averse law enforcement agencies turn up at the house and arrest the goodies not the baddies. There have been too many cases over the years where that has happened. Hopefully a clarification of the law will help bring about a change of attitude in both the police and CPS to better reflect the mood of the people.

Nobody forces a burglar to break into your house. They should be the ones who get hammered, not the innocent homeowner. Simples.

posted by Gary @ 10:34