There has been a lot of discussion in Britain over the last few years as to how much force a householder is permitted to use when confronted with a burglar. The debate intensified after a Norfolk farmer, Tony Martin, was given life inprisonment for shooting a 16 year old burglar in the back and killing him. Now, the Director of Public Prosecutions has come out with a statement.
Householders 'can kill burglars'
Householders can kill burglars and not face prosecution as long as they use only "reasonable force", said the Director of Public Prosecutions said.
Even using a weapon such as a knife or gun would not lead to the householder being charged with any offence, as long as their actions were what they "honestly and instinctively" believed was necessary "in the heat of the moment".
The advice from Ken Macdonald QC was published in a leaflet issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Crown Prosecution Service.
"The key thing to bear in mind is that, as long as someone hasn't stepped over that line into retribution or revenge, it is quite difficult to perceive of a level of violence that would not be regarded as reasonable by a prosecutor," said Mr Macdonald.
"This is something the intruder brings on him or herself.
"I don't think we need to be too squeamish about the situation."
There have been examples of householders not being prosecuted after intruders had been fatally stabbed or shot, or hit over the head with bats or metal bars, he added.
Mr Macdonald said it was "very rare" for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to bring prosecutions against householders, adding that there had been 11 in 15 years, including one case in which a burglar was tied up, thrown into a pit and set alight.
The guidance comes nearly three weeks after Home Secretary Charles Clarke announced the definition of how much violence could be used against intruders would not be changed.
But he urged police and prosecutors to do more to explain the current law to the public.