Bill to clarify use of self defence
People who feel threatened in their own homes will no longer have to flee and can stay to defend both themselves and their property under Government plans.
The proposed changes will make clear that people are under no duty to retreat from an attacker when acting in self defence and can also use reasonable force to defend their property, as well as themselves. The move comes after a series of cases in which self defence has been deemed acceptable after a suspected intruder has been killed.
Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said the changes, set out in a bill to be considered by MPs next week, would strengthen people's rights to use force to defend themselves against intruders in their homes.
Mr Clarke said: "While fleeing is usually the safest option if you feel threatened, people are not obliged to retreat when defending themselves or their homes. We will ensure that if you do react instinctively to repel an intruder you will not be punished for it - as long as you used reasonable force."
Mr Clarke explained in June that householders would be able to stab burglars or hit them with a blunt instrument such as a poker without fear of prosecution under the new legislation guaranteeing their right to defend themselves and their property.
Prime Minister David Cameron has promised that measures in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill would "put beyond doubt that homeowners and small shopkeepers who use reasonable force to defend themselves or their properties will not be prosecuted".
The Home Office is also considering changes to the guidance police officers are given on when to arrest someone, in a bid to make it clear when an arrest may or may not be necessary if a person claims they have acted in self defence.
The Association of Chief Police Officers and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) are also expected to publish more detailed guidance for members of the public on the use of force, including examples of what would be reasonable force.
Under the bill's proposals, the question of whether a person could have fled would simply be one of the factors to be taken into account when considering whether reasonable force was used, rather than imposing any duty to retreat on potential victims.
This would apply wherever reasonable force was used in self defence, to protect others, to prevent a crime or to protect property. Powers enabling potential victims to use reasonable force to protect themselves would also be extended to cover their property.