Sunday, December 12, 2004

More on home defence

The Sunday Telegraph has a leader on the home defence issue opposite an article by Patrick Mercer, the Conservative MP who is trying to amend the law by means of a Private Member's Bill.

Patrick Mercer's article refers to the case of Brett Osborn who defended himself against a drug-crazed burglar who was trying to molest a woman staying with him. In the ensuing struggle Mr Osborn stabbed and killed the burglar. He is now serving a sentence for manslaughter, his plea of self-defence having been rejected because he failed to warn the intruder that he was armed.

This seems to be at odds with the Kenneth Noye case I linked to below where, although I can't be sure, I think that no warning was given.

If it is the case that it is necessary for a warning to be given in order for a plea of self-defence to be accepted, then I think there is a clear case for the law to be changed, and it is good to see that Patrick Mercer agrees with this.

I still don't like his idea of using a the vague criterion of "not grossly disproportionate" though. His suggestion that forcing the Attorney General to take personal responsibility for any prosecutions under the new law will stop its use in marginal circumstances looks weak to me. The Telegraph's demand for the adoption of the Oklahoma law, looks much better. Indeed I would have thought that it could be adopted pretty much as it stands.
"Any occupant of a dwelling is justified in using any degree of physical force against another person who has made an unlawful entry into that dwelling, and when the occupant has a reasonable belief that such other person might use any physical force, no matter how slight, against the occupant of the dwelling."

The only way I can think to improve it is the insertion of the word "imminently" before "use any physical force". I don't think shooting a fleeing burglar in the back is reasonable.