Should it be legal to murder a burglar who breaks into your home?

One day, 78-year-old Osborn-Brooks went to open his door when two men forced their way inside his house.

Osborn-Brooks picked up a knife.

The burglar, Henry Vincent, was armed with a screwdriver.

Vincent made a move towards Osborn-Brooks, saying: “Come near me and I’ll stab you.”

Image via Richard Osborn-Brooks/Facebook

Osborn-Brooks, afraid for his as well as his disabled wife’s safety, made the choice to raise his knife, which caused injuries that ultimately led to Vincent dying.

The case was recently concluded, with the decision that Henry Vincent had been “killed lawfully.”

The decision received mixed emotions from many.

Another story that strikes similar resemblance is that of Tony Martin who made headlines in the UK in 1999 after shooting and killing a 16-year-old who broke into his home.

Image via pexels

Martin’s home had been broken into over ten times and he had lost over $7,500 worth in furniture.

Late one night in August of 1999, he woke up to the sound of one of his windows being broken downstairs.

Keeping a loaded shotgun beneath his bed, he went downstairs with his gun and opened fire a number of times into the dark.

He ended up striking two burglars, both were injured, but the 16-year-old, Fred Barras, died moments after being shot.

Martin was later arrested and served close to three years in prison for the murder — which was significantly longer than the surviving burglar served.

Image via pixabay

So what are the laws currently in the UK? Can you defend yourself when an intruder comes into your home?

The answer is yes but only under certain circumstances and the police would most definitely question your actions.

The long-established common law right of honest citizens use “reasonable force” to protect themselves — the law stating that “reasonable” should be assessed in the context of the danger you believe you were facing and the not the danger you were actually facing.

But if you mistake the danger you are facing while intoxicated or under the influence, you may not be entitled to a “reasonable” force defense.

Image via Tech. Sgt. Terrica Y. Jones/Released

That being said, the government accepts that in the heat of the moment, people may over-react.

“I think householders acting instinctively and honestly in self-defense are victims, not criminals. They should be treated that way.” Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said.

He continued, saying: “We’re saying you can do anything as long as it’s not grossly disproportionate. You couldn’t, for instance, stab a burglar if they were already unconscious.

“But we really should be putting the law firmly on the side of the homeowner, the householder, the family, and saying ‘when that burglar crosses your threshold, invades your home, threatens your family, they give up their rights’.”

In the U.S. the law allows everyone the right to defend themselves with a responsible response.

Image via Max Pixel

That being said, it does mean that if someone is charged with murder or assault, they can use self-defense as a legal excuse if they can prove it in a court of law.

In order to use the self-defense card in response to violence, in most jurisdictions you must:

  • not be the aggressor
  • only use enough force to combat the threat and no more (i.e. you can’t bring a gun to a fist fight)
  • have a reasonable belief that force is necessary
  • have a reasonable belief that an attack is imminent
  • retreat if at all possible

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