Joint Public Statement from the Crown Prosecution Service and the Association of Chief Police Officers
What is the purpose of this statement?
It is a rare and frightening prospect to be confronted by an intruder in your own home. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) 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.
Wherever 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’?
Anyone 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 judgments 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.
As a general rule, the more extreme the circumstances and the fear felt, the more force you can lawfully use in self-defence.
What amounts to disproportionate force? I’ve heard I can use that.
The force you use must always be reasonable in the circumstances as you believe them to be. Where you are defending yourself or others from intruders in your home it might still be reasonable in the circumstances for you to use a degree of force that is subsequently considered to be disproportionate, perhaps if you are acting inextreme circumstances in the heat of the moment and don’t have a chance to thinkabout exactly how much force would be necessary to repel the intruder: it might seem reasonable to you at the time but with hindsight, your actions may seem disproportionate. The law will give you the benefit of the doubt in these circumstances.
This only applies if you were acting in self-defence or to protect others in your home and the force you used was disproportionate – disproportionate force to protect property is still unlawful.