I'm sorry if this topic has been beaten to death ... but I keep hearing conflicting things about the current state of affairs with respect to self-defense and lawful use of a firearm for self-defense.
On paper, the law would seem to steer one way:
But in practice, what is the general mood of the courts in the UK?
Inquiring minds want to know.
Thanks for your input. Sources also greatly appreciated.
When the Police turn up in response to your 999 call and find Johhnie Scrote lying on his back at the foot of the stairs in a pool of claret, clutching his knife with a neat hole between the eyes, (or in the case of a shotgun, a not so neat hole between the eyes), and you say, 'He had a weapon, I was in fear of my life' you will not go to jail… end of.
Now, if the Police turn up and find him lying face down halfway down the garden with a hole in his back and armed with nothing more offensive than his dick, well then, you are going to be in big doo doo, just like in most States of the US, (Fleeing Felon and all that)
As above, but it is also worth noting that self defence (or "defense") is not considered to be "good reason" for owning a firearm. So, an individual will not be granted a firearms certificate (permision to purchase a firearm) if "self defence" is the stated reason for owning said firearm.
It's a bit of a legal disconnect, you can use firearms in self defence if you fear for your life, but you can't own a gun for the purpose of self defence.
What about the farmer who had two criminals (one had 29 previous convictions, the other 34) break into his house where the farmer shot one dead?
Didn't the farmer go to prison for life on murder charge, later reduced to manslaughter? The second criminal then using taxpayer money to sue the farmer.
Why was the farmer not able to use the "in fear for his life" defense when two criminals broke into his house?
Generally in the U.S., most states have the "castle doctrine" in their state law, where it would likely be considered self defense since the bad guy came into your home. But if you shoot them in the back as they are trying to leave, it won't be so simple.
The equivalent in the American system would be someone buying an unregistered MG, chasing two burglers away, then shooting them in the back as they ran down the street.
We have this thing called "proportional response" or somewhat in our legal systems. Unlike "castle law", someone wandering into your house is not an excuse to kill them.
On the other hand, if they charge into your house with a knife and try to rape your wife, that's a different story.
Thanks for the rest of the story. That paints a worse situation on the farmer's actions.
Concerning "wandering into your house"....
some people feel that if someone breaks into your house at 2 am, their intent is not good, and you should not have to wait to see if they do rape your wife or slit your throat to presume your life is in danger.
That's the UK legal view, you don't have to assume the intruders intentions are benign.
You don't. Pre-emptive strike is justifiable, but you are going to have to convince a jury that it was so. Mr Martin would have had to convinced a jury that he was in fear of his life and saw no other course of action than to shoot the pair to lawfully save his own life. The fact that they were shot in retreat sunk him. It did not help that his shotgun was unlawfully held and he was effectively lying in wait. Nonetheless his plight struck a massive empahetic cord with many people who consider that those engaged in a criminal act pretty much deserve what they get and should have no rights under the law.
Actually it very much depends on the answers you give to certain questions !!
The circumstances very much alter the context.
If Mr Bloggs buys a shotgun for clay shooting but also keeps it loaded under his bed intending to use it for self defence, he WOULD go to jail if he admitted this after using it in self defence against an armed intruder.
Very important phrase in law "instant arming". Means you can use something you have to hand as a weapon in response to an attack. ie walking home with bottle of wine. Bottle is not a weapon. You are not carrying it for self defence. But if attacked and you use it to hit yur attacker, you have "instantly armed".
One question the Police will ask in your burglar scenario will be
"At what point did you realise the burglar was armed" - If it was as he came up your stairs, they will wonder how you managed to get key, open safe, take out shotgun, load it, and shoot before he reached you. And if you armed yourself merely upon hearing the burglar enter the house, its predemitated rather than instant arming.
Its a HUGE GREY AREA and your fate will be decided by a jury.
Its not as simple as "you will not go to jail" !!
Lots of bollox in this thread…
You don't have to assume the burglar is unarmed… you don't have to wait for him to instigate the attack… you can pre-empt.
And as for the 'how did you manage to get the key while he was coming up the stairs… coming up the stairs gives you more than enough time to extract said shooter from your gunsafe because the BiB do encourage you to keep your gunsafes upstairs in things like, well, bedrooms!… "I was in fear for my life, I thought he had a weapon, I called out a warning, he kept coming, I fired"… Never gonna get a conviction if that is what you say and stick to.
Yes, you can pre empt.
BUT you must use reasonable force.
And until you can see your burglar, his size / strength compared to yours, is he alone, his type of weapon etc, you cannot decide what is reasonable force.
And if you take out your firearm BEFORE this, you have armed for self defence in a premeditated manner rather than instant arming.
Fact remains it would still all be down to a jury to decide.
And from my experience of juries - AARRGGHHHHHH :-)
I'll stick to the opinion of the Attorney General, ACPO and the CPS thank you…
And there is not such definition as 'instantly armed'… the legal definition is that the weapon should 'come to hand'… If I wake up and the keys to my gunsafe are on the locker beside my bed, viola! Guess what weapon 'comes to hand'. Attorney General has said you can use a firearm in self defence against an intruder if you feel that it was necessary because you were 'in fear'.
And no you don't have to see him and make a value judgement on size/strength/type of weapon. You are entitled to assume the worse.
As far as I'm aware there is no legal proportional response for my 92 year old grandfather. He wouldn't get a shotgun certificate due to blackouts and he couldn't physically handle one if he could have one.
He could handle a handgun but he isn't allowed one. Seems the only legal option is let himself be killed.
& your future as an FAC holder after the said event?
The term instant arming DOES exist.
Case law has it as a defence in possession of an offensive weapon. And a defence to premeditation.
As to the gun safe keys on your bedside table - good luck with that one against a good prosecution barrister !
Its all highly debatable but I take your point. And enjoying the debate :-)
Thankfully, the situation arises very very rarely.
However from experience I know that several people have dropped themselves right in it when they have used OTHER items in self defence AND given the wrong answers upon arrival of police. Or had negative perception from Magistrate / Jury. I speak from professional experience of these incidents.
As I said - if Police turn up and the burglar has been shot, thay cannot put it down to self defence and leave it at that. The shooter WILL be arrested. The matter would go to court and the defendant would have his fate in hands of jury and the skill of both barristers.
I wish our criminal justice system was PERFECT and the righteous always won - but its not - I have lost count of how many "good guys" get convicted and how many "bad guys" walk free.
I never want to be there having shot an intruder !!
Only in USA can you be ASSURED of safety in shooting an intruder - I believe over there that as soon as the intruder enters your home you can use any force you deem fit.
People have shot burglars with shooters and not been charged with anything…
Homeowners and self defence - DPP issues further details of cases
13 January 2005
Examples of cases where householders have not been prosecuted for attacking intruders have been given by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken Macdonald QC.
Mr Macdonald said: "In the current debate about the rights of householders to protect themselves against burglars and intruders, I believe it is important for people to understand what the law says and how prosecutions take place.
"The law is on the side of householders. Being burgled is a very frightening experience and householders who react instinctively and attack intruders will only be prosecuted if they use very excessive force.
"It is only in the most extreme circumstances that householders are prosecuted for violence against burglars. Prosecutors recognise that householders confronted by intruders are entitled to use violence to protect themselves, their families and their property.
"Furthermore the law understands that when people are under attack in their own homes they cannot judge precisely the level of their response. They are not expected to do so. So long as they do no more than they honestly and instinctively feel is necessary in the heat of the moment, that will be the strongest evidence that the householder has acted lawfully.
"Indeed we routinely refuse to prosecute those reacting in the heat of the moment to finding intruders within their homes. So householders who have killed burglars in this situation have not been prosecuted. Householders who have shot burglars have not been prosecuted. Householders who have stabbed burglars have not been prosecuted. Householders who have struck burglars on the head, fracturing their skulls, have not been not prosecuted.
"On an informal trawl the CPS has only been able to find 11 cases in the last 15 years where people have been prosecuted for attacking intruders into houses, commercial premises or private land. Only 7 of these appear to have resulted from domestic household burglaries."
One man lay in wait for a burglar on commercial premises, caught him, tied him up, beat him, threw him into a pit and set fire to him. One caught trespassers on private land and shot a boy in the back with 40 shotgun pellets as he ran away. Others shot burglars in the back as they were escaping. Another appears to have been a drug dealer involved in a knife fight on private premises.
Mr Macdonald gave examples of cases where the CPS decided not to prosecute people for attacking intruders. He also gave examples of where prosecutions had been brought. These examples include:
Householder/other victim not prosecuted
Robbery at a newsagent's. One of the two robbers died after being stabbed by the newsagent. The CPS did not prosecute the newsagent but prosecuted the surviving robber who was jailed for six years (Greater Manchester);
A householder returned home to find a burglar in his home. There was a struggle during which the burglar hit his head on the driveway and later died. No prosecution of householder who was clearly acting in self-defence (Derbyshire);
Armed robbers threatened a pub landlord and barmaid with extreme violence. The barmaid escaped, fetched her employer's shotgun and shot at least one of the intruders. Barmaid not prosecuted (Hertfordshire);
Two burglars entered a house armed with a knife and threatened a woman. Her husband overcame one of the burglars and stabbed him. The burglar died. There was no prosecution of the householder but the remaining burglar was convicted (Lincolnshire);
A middle aged female took a baseball bat off a burglar and hit him over the head, fracturing his skull. The burglar made a complaint but the CPS refused to prosecute (Lancashire).
Examples of Prosecutions
A man laid in wait for a burglar on commercial premises, caught him, tied him up, beat him, threw him into a pit and set fire to him (Cheshire);
A number of people trespassed on private land to go night-time fishing. They were approached by a man with a shotgun who threatened to shoot them. They ran away but one of the men was shot in the back with a mass of 40 shotgun pellets (South Wales);
A householder lay in wait for a burglar who tried to burgle his shed. The householder shot him in the back (South Yorkshire).
Mr Macdonald said: "These examples show that prosecutors take great care over their decisions and have done for many years. So long as a householder is not acting in retribution or revenge, the force used in self defence would have to be wholly excessive and out of proportion before a prosecution would be contemplated.
"We are working with ACPO and the Home Office to publish plain guidance to the public on these issues. We want the law as it stands to be clearly understood."
Lots of very reassuring information and something I would point to in my defence if I was ever prosecuted.
But as I said, my faith in UK court system being slightly tarnished, I would be extremely loathe to use my firearms in self defense against an intruder in MOST circumstances.
Obviously if up against an intruder who has a firearm, and I cannot call police, and I cannot stay behind a locked door while waiting for police to arrive, if I cannot run away, ie AS A LAST RESORT then I might use a firearm in self defence.
But in my view and that of many prosecution barristers, if one has time to get key ( even if conviently on bedside table ) open safe, load firearm etc - one also has time to call police, lock oneself out of reach of intruder ( burglars by the way USUALLY avoid confrontation and tend to make off on discovery / calling police ) or even get out of the house.
I do take your point - there are MANY occasions of the shooter not being prosecuted. I just would rather try to avoid testing it !!
And even if not prosecuted - arrest is pretty much the norm - and a decision NOT to prosecute can take months. FAC will be revoked pending outcome. Trial by media in the meantime. And we all know how biased the media are to gun owners.