Homeowners have a right to take tough action or use “disproportionate force” if faced with an intruder in their home, the High Court has ruled. The so-called “householder defense”, as strengthened by the Coalition Government, has been declared not incompatible with European human rights laws.
However, senior judges have stressed in a landmark ruling they were not giving individuals “carte blanche” to use any degree of force to protect themselves and their loved ones. But force was not necessarily unreasonable and unlawful “simply because it is disproportionate – unless it is grossly disproportionate”.
The judges rejected a case brought by the family of an alleged intruder who was left in a coma after entering a man’s home and being confronted by its owner. The homeowner put Denby Collins in a headlock to restrain him.
Police investigators found “householder B”, had used a headlock to restrain Denby Collins – but the prosecuting authorities decided not to charge B with any offense. The Collins family are confident that, had the incident occurred before the recent change in the law, B and possibly other members of his family, would have been charged and prosecuted for unlawful wounding or another offense of violence.
However, the judges have rejected the case on the grounds that the homeowner’s actions were permissible under the so-called ‘householder defense’ introduced by Parliament when the Crime and Courts Act 2013 was used to insert a new Section 76(5A) into the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.
President of the Queen’s Bench Division Sir Brian Leveson said, In the circumstances I conclude that the criminal law of England and Wales on self defense in householder cases, taken as a whole, fulfills the framework obligation under Article 2(1).
The headline message is and remains clear: a householder will only be able to avail himself of the defense if the degree of force he used was reasonable in the circumstances as he believed them to be.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice welcomed the judgment, Being confronted by an intruder in your own home can be a terrifying ordeal. We welcome this judgment, which confirms that the provisions under the Crime & Courts Act 2013 are compatible with our obligations under human rights legislation.
Collins’ family said that they are disappointed with the decision and are considering an appeal.