“You can kill burglars” was the message that came blaring forth from the tabloid press with that flourish of heady triumphalism that usually accompanies a victory-for-the-common-man story (and which, on closer scrutiny, nearly always means that the government has just fucked over the common man good and proper).
To the cursory eye, the impression given is that the government has backed down and responded to public pressure for a change in the law to give citizens more rights to fight back against intruders and attackers. In reality, the government has done no such thing. Instead, those various branches of the state responsible for law enforcement have collaborated on a public statement:
Anyone can use reasonable force to protect themselves or others, or to carry out an arrest or to prevent crime. You are not expected to make fine judgements over the level of force you use in the heat of the moment. So long as you only do what you honestly and instinctively believe is necessary in the heat of the moment, that would be the strongest evidence of you acting lawfully and in self-defence. This is still the case if you use something to hand as a weapon.
As a general rule, the more extreme the circumstances and the fear felt, the more force you can lawfully use in self-defence.
None of which sounds unreasonable per se, but all of which is merely a re-statement of the law as it currently stands. This is not a change of heart or a climbdown or a fresh start or anything else of that nature. This is just yesterday’s bill of fare, re-heated and served up with a garnish of finely-chopped press release.
In essence this is political chaff; a big bunch of glittery tinsel ejected into the air in order to deflect the heat-seeking missile of public disquiet. It appears to have done the trick.
As I have said before, the law does need changing in order to more accurately reflect the pre-1967 Common Law positions but, more than that, there needs to be a reversal of the last half-century’s worth of anti-self-help culture.
On the downside, we are still a long way from any of that change but, and on the upside, at least the ball is now in play.