Ross Clark Ross Clark

A cut-price death penalty

Ross Clark says that the existing law allows us to defend ourselves robustly against burglars. We don’t need a licence to murder them

Ross Clark says that the existing law allows us to defend ourselves robustly against burglars. We don’t need a licence to murder them

This week sees an event about as common as a total eclipse of the moon: an alignment of views between the House of Commons tearoom and the taproom down at the Dog and Duck. On Wednesday Tory MP Patrick Mercer published a Bill which would allow householders greater rights in fighting intruders. Already the Bill has been enthusiastically backed by numerous MPs on both sides of the House and seems likely to become law unless the government blocks it in favour of its own, similar initiative. The Bill would amend the Criminal Law Act 1967 to state: ‘Where a person uses force in the prevention of crime or in the defence of persons or property on another who is in any building or part of a building having entered as a trespasser or attempting so to enter, that person shall not be guilty of any offence in respect of the use of that force unless a) the degree of force used was grossly disproportionate and b) this was or ought to have been apparent to the person using such force.’ Or, in other words: where faced with a punk, a householder may go ahead and make his day.

A householder’s right to defend himself and his property would, in current circumstances, go down a treat with the public. It was Today listeners — of all people — who brought the issue to the fore when at Christmas 2003 they were invited by Labour MP Stephen Pound to partake in a unique democratic experiment. They would come up with a law, and then Mr Pound would attempt to bring it to the statute book as a private member’s Bill. To his horror, the listeners voted for a very similar measure to the Mercer Bill.

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