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Using force to protect your home against intruders

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It is a terrifying prospect to confront an intruder in your home and there has been confusion about what is permitted under the law when people are acting in self-defence to protect themselves and their family from harm.

Although not written in statute, the law is quite clear:

  • You are entitled to protect yourself and others
  • You may use violence to do so including the use of a weapon
  • The level of violence may include inflicting serious harm / death
  • You may strike first and still be found to have acted in self-defence

Everyone has the right to use ‘reasonable force’ and although this is difficult to define, the general rule is that the more severe the circumstances the more force can be lawfully used to defend yourself.

Ian Cunningham, Crown Prosecution Service lawyer has said “People are entitled to use reasonable force in self-defence to defend themselves, their family and their property. The CPS policy on householders makes clear that those who use reasonable force in defending themselves will enjoy the full protection of the law and have nothing to fear.”

The circumstances are different if the intruder runs away and you give chase. Head of our Family Team, Julie-Ann Harris, says “You are no longer acting in self-defence and the degree of force may not be deemed reasonable. If you are in your own home however, and in fear for yourself and family, the law does not require you to wait to be attacked before using defensive force yourself. Very few householders have been prosecuted for actions resulting from the use of force against intruders.”

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