Does the law allow you to kill a burglar who has broken into your home?

The case of a 78 year old pensioner, who was arrested on suspicion of Murder after the death of a suspected burglar, has again focused attention on what you can and can’t do if a burglar breaks into your home.

Am I legally allowed to kill a burglar?

This is an extremely complicated question. In short, the law allows anyone to use ‘reasonable force’:

  • in self-defence;
  • to defend their property;
  • to defend others;
  • to lawfully arrest someone who is committing a crime.

‘Reasonable force’ is not defined in law. When deciding to charge someone, the Crown Prosecution Service will consider:

  • Whether or not the use of force was necessary in all the circumstances
    i.e. was there any need for force?
  • Whether the force was reasonable
    i.e. would a reasonable person regard the level of force used as reasonable?
    This includes factors such as the degree of force, the way it was applied, the consequence of the force and if a weapon was used.

For example, if a burglar broke into your house, you are legally allowed to use reasonable and proportionate force to defend yourself, your family and your property. That said, if you chased an unarmed burglar down the street and beat him with a baseball bat, this would most likely not be necessary or reasonable force.

If the Crown Prosecution Service ultimately decides to charge, it would be a matter for a Judge and Jury to decide the above questions.

Can I attack a burglar before they attack me?

There is no law to say that a person must wait to be struck first before they can defend themselves. The law gives a person the right to use reasonable force first, if they reasonably fear that an attack is imminent.

Here at Bhatia Best we have a specialist Criminal Defence department, well equipped to deal with all types of criminal cases. If you require assistance, please telephone 0115 9503231. We can be contacted all year round 24 hours a day.