Monday, October 8, 2012

Castle Doctrine Coming To The Land Of Castles?

It appears that at least a limited form of the castle doctrine may be coming to the United Kingdom according to a story in the Daily Mail Online.

Chris Grayling, the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, announced that he is changing the law that would allow home owners (or householders, in Brit-speak) to use "disproportionate force" when faced with burglars or home invaders. Currently, people in the UK are only allowed to use "reasonable" force and it was only within the last couple of years that the duty to retreat even if within the home was removed.
It will mean someone who is confronted by a burglar and has reason to fear for their safety, or their family’s safety and in the heat of the moment uses force that later seems ‘disproportionate’ will not be guilty of an offence.

This could include the use of lethal force. Only force which is ‘grossly’ disproportionate will not be permitted.

Mr Grayling said: ‘Being confronted by an intruder in your home is terrifying, and the public should be in no doubt that the law is on their side. That is why I am strengthening the current law.

‘Householders who act instinctively and honestly in self-defence are crime victims and should be treated that way.

‘We need to dispel doubts in this area once and for all, and I am very pleased to be delivering on the pledge that we made in Opposition.’
It is good to see that the United Kingdom is coming to its senses on this. Many may remember the story of farmer Tony Martin who served more time in prison for killing a burglar in his house than did the burglar's accomplices. Martin was originally convicted of murder and eventually had his conviction reduced to manslaughter on appeal. He still had to serve a five year sentence.

UPDATE: The British paper The Daily Telegraph has more on the changes as proposed by the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling. They note such a "law-and-order" policy is quite popular with the Conservative Party's base.


  1. This is very big if it goes through.

    I've read that the distinction between "reasonable" and "disproportionate force" was made in case law in the early '50s, and effectively outlawed self-defense anywhere in the U.K. That of course helped the push against weapons, since its assumed they'll likely be used against an unarmed or less well armed aggressor and therefore can't be legitimately used in self-defense.

    Not sure if this will make much difference on the ground, given how hard the government has been restricting the ownership of weapons; are the few who still retain or can get licenses left with anything better than double barrel shotguns? Which of course they can't buy merely to defend themselves with.

  2. I think "householders" might actually mean just "people of the household," rather than "homeowners." After all, I don't own the house I live in right now, so I'm not really a "homeowner," but the law nevertheless considers it to be my home.

  3. I am especially glad that they will not allow the use of "disproportionate force." In the 70's, the use of disproportionate force on Monty Python's Flying Circus led to 10,000# weights being dropped on the heads of offenders. We wouldn't want to see a return to this.