||Dear Sir George,
The law at present allows for householders to use "reasonable force" against intruders. Any strengthening of the law would therefore imply that they were justified in using "unreasonable force". This, it seems to me, is not a good idea at all.
What needs changing is not the law, but current practice by the police. In particular, I believe this breaches one of the fundamental tenets of British justice, the presumption of innocence.
Essentially, current police practice is to treat any use of force by a householder as unreasonable force until it is proved otherwise. This is a form of "guilty until proved innocent". The police assert that unreasonable force has been used and force the householder to prove otherwise.
The police are only allowed to detain, fingerprint, interrogate etc. suspects if they have reason to believe that an offence has been committed. It is reasonable to assume that any housholder will believe their force to be "reasonable". The presumption of innocence means that the police should accept this unless they have positive reason to believe the force was unreasonable. The householder is entitled to the assumption that force was reasonable, unless the police can present evidence otherwise. If they caqnnot do so, they are guilty of false arrest.
In particular, if the intruder had a weapon, the assumption that the any force used was "reasonable" should be strong. If the force was reasonable, there is no offence, and any arrest for it is unjustifiable.
To achieve this does not require any new law, merely a statement by the appropriate legal authority that the presumption of innocence is contravened by a presumption that force is unreasonable.
|Date Issue Raised:
||08 Dec 2004
||Thank you for the email.
There appears to be some confusion within the Government as to whether or no the law needs changing. Earlier this week, the Lord Chancellor said it didn't. Today, in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister said it did.
I think the best response at this stage is to invite you to wait until Patrick Mercer publishes his Private Members Bill, due for second reading on Feb 4th. When we both see what he proposes, we can discuss the merits.