Householders and the use of force against intruders
(Issued May 2005)
joint Public Statement has been made by the Crown Prosecution Service
(CPS) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).
What is the purpose of this statement?
is a rare and frightening prospect to be confronted by an intruder
in your own home. The Crown Prosecution Service and Chief Constables
are responding to public concern over the support offered by the
law and confusion about householders defending themselves. We want
a criminal justice system that reaches fair decisions, has the
confidence of law-abiding citizens and encourages them actively
to support the police and prosecutors in the fight against crime.
possible you should call the police. The following summarises the
position when you are faced with an intruder in your home, and
provides a brief overview of how the police and CPS will deal with
any such events.
Does the law protect me? What is ‘reasonable force’?
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.
a general rule, the more extreme the circumstances and the fear
felt, the more force you can lawfully use in self-defence.
Do I have to wait to be attacked?
not if you are in your own home and in fear for yourself or others.
In those circumstances the law does not require you to wait to
be attacked before using defensive force yourself.
What if the intruder dies?
you have acted in reasonable self-defence, as described above,
and the intruder dies you will still have acted lawfully. Indeed,
there are several such cases where the householder has not been
prosecuted. However if, for example,:
having knocked someone unconscious, you then decided to further
hurt or kill them to punish them; or
you knew of an intended intruder and set a trap to hurt or to kill them rather
than involve the police,
you would be acting with very excessive and gratuitous force
and could be prosecuted.
What if I chase them as they run off?
situation is different as you are no longer acting in self-defence
and so the same degree of force may not be reasonable. However,
you are still allowed to use reasonable force to recover your property
and make a citizen’s arrest. You should consider your own safety
and, for example, whether the police have been called. A rugby
tackle or a single blow would probably be reasonable. Acting out
of malice and revenge with the intent of inflicting punishment
through injury or death would not.
Will you believe the intruder rather than me?
police weigh all the facts when investigating an incident. This
includes the fact that the intruder caused the situation to arise
in the first place. We hope that everyone understands that the
police have a duty to investigate incidents involving a death or
injury. Things are not always as they seem. On occasions people
pretend a burglary has taken place to cover up other crimes such
as a fight between drug dealers.
How would the police and CPS handle the investigation and treat
considering these cases Chief Constables and the Director of Public
Prosecutions (Head of the CPS) are determined that they must be
investigated and reviewed as swiftly and and sympathetically as
possible. In some cases, for instance where the facts are very
clear, or where less serious injuries are involved, the investigation
will be concluded very quickly, without any need for arrest. In
more complicated cases, such as where a death or serious injury
occurs, more detailed enquiries will be necessary. The police may
need to conduct a forensic examination and/or obtain your account
ensure such cases are dealt with as swiftly and sympathetically
as possible, the police and CPS will take special measures namely:
- An experienced investigator will oversee
the case; and
- If it goes as far as CPS considering the evidence, the case
will be prioritised to ensure a senior lawyer makes a quick
is a fact that very few householders have ever been prosecuted
for actions resulting from the use of force against intruders.
Contact: Alan Ingram, Press Officer, on 07768 301528