Is it right to kill a burglar?

Last month, Peter Flanagan of Pendlebury in Salford was confronted by machete-wielding intruders at his home. He has been quoted as saying he “did what he believed necessary” to defend his home and family and fatally stabbed one of the burglars.

The day before the break-in, Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters he intended to “put beyond doubt that homeowners and small shopkeepers who use reasonable force to defend themselves or their properties will not be prosecuted”. Who knew that this clarification of the law would be tested the following day?

Now the CPS have agreed with Mr Flanagan that he acted in self defence after being woken by noises downstairs in his house shortly before midnight.

Nazir Afzal, chief crown prosecutor for the North West, said “On investigating the disturbance he was confronted by intruders, one of whom was armed with a machete.”

“People are entitled to use reasonable force in self-defence to defend themselves, their family and their property,” he said.

But is killing someone reasonable force? We haven’t had a full and clear picture of what exactly transpired, so it would be folly to suggest Mr Flanagan went too far at this stage, but I hope that now the CPS has agreed not to charge the Pendlebury homeowner for simply defending his family and property, that the full facts are released.

I firmly believe that homeowners should be allowed to do whatever necessary to “STOP” intruders, but they should go no further and not be tempted to take the law into their own hands (thereby becoming judge, jury and executioner).

Nine years ago a father who stabbed to death a burglar he found in his family’s home was jailed for five years after being found guilty of manslaughter. Barry-Lee Hastings, 25, stabbed Roger Williams, 35, a total of 12 times after mistaking a jemmy in his hand for a machete but Old Bailey Judge Brian Barker told Hastings that he had gone too far and his actions were not justified.

And more than a decade ago Tony Martin was convicted of murder, replaced with manslaughter on appeal when he shot and killed one burglar and wounded another who had both entered his home. Martin served three years of a five year sentence for the crime.

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said legislation was needed to clarify what force could be used, and that, if a householder stabbed a burglar, the householder would not be prosecuted.

“What they’re not entitled to do is shoot them in the back when they’re running away,” Mr Clarke added.

The Ministry of Justice is quoted by the BBC as saying it is “looking at ways of clarifying the law so people are clearer about what this means”.

I call on the MoJ to move quickly and set out what homeowners can legally do to protect themselves when they are faced with burglars entering their homes armed with deadly weapons.


  1. Joe O'Neill July 22, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    I share your concerns.

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