Proportionate Force for Defending your Property

Discussion in 'Self Defence' started by Moosey, Sep 17, 2009.

  1. Moosey

    Moosey invariably, a moose Supporter

    I was wondering: British law allows one to use a reasonable level of force in defence of one's property. But isn't this much harder to benchmark than in cases of defence of your person?

    What is a reasonable amount of force to use if you find someone trying to saw the chain off your bicyle or climb in through your window?

    It's tempting to say "kick the dung out of them", but what is the goal for which the force should be proportional? To affect a citizen's arrest? To discourage them from the crime in progress?
  2. Yossarian

    Yossarian Valued Member

    You can use a fair bit of force if someone breaks into your house, about the same if they attacked you. You can definately use reasonable force to protect your property, in English and Scottish law this is what an average person would consider to be reasonable.
  3. John Titchen

    John Titchen Still Learning Supporter


    They are committing a crime. You are thus entitled to arrest them. Should they resist arrest you are entitled to use force to defend yourself. The normal criteria for reasonable force are that it be
    a. necessary
    b. proportionate to the amount of harm believed to be inflicted (or attempted).

    When on your own property, there is no duty of withdrawal, so necessity need only be that the other person is resisting arrest. Proportionate, like any other struggle between people, depends upon how much damage to you (or another) that you believe they are attempting to inflict to assist their escape.

    Where difficulty lies is if you use heavy force to make the arrest (ie break their wrist or dislocate their shoulder while putting them in an armlock) when they are attempting to escape with no valuables or something of little value and have not actively fought back. Here the force you have used is clearly disproportionate to the damage they have caused, and you will probably be charged by the CPS.
  4. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    well if a dude is sawing off the chain of your bike, he has a potential weapon in his hands, so you just have to get his attention in order to be able to claim self defense, then kick him in the nose until he drops the saw.
  5. Southpaw535

    Southpaw535 Well-Known Member Moderator Supporter

    the problem is if someone breaks inot my house I think I'm pretty likely to grab a weapon, very unlikely to have the guts to use it I reckon but none the less doesnt that bugger things a bit?
    Scenario wise, I hear people in front room for instance, I'm a weed so I grab hold of the metal pole i have underneath my bed after breaking it off today, i confront said bandit, he sees me and fights to get away.
    Now can't he just say he saw me with a weapon so feared for his safety which is why he attacked me, and dont i already break self defence law by arming myself?
    I wouldnt have the guts to use a weapon i dont think but the idea of confronting one or more possibly armed people with my hands dont sound fun.
  6. Moi

    Moi Warriors live forever x

    I stop short of drinking their blood. (in the week anyhow)
    Shmook and robertmap like this.
  7. adouglasmhor

    adouglasmhor Not an Objectivist

    You think letting the gimp out and phoning for my man slip to come round wouldn't be legal then?
  8. John Titchen

    John Titchen Still Learning Supporter

    This is where the law gets interesting. Essentially you are well within your rights to grab any weapon of any sort within your own home if fearing for your own safety and own ability to protect yourself. You cannot be charged for holding the said weapon unless it is illegal for you to own it (because you are not carrying it in public). As the homeowner you have no duty to retreat. An intruder however, who has no right to be there, does have a duty to retreat - and so would have to prove that you were blocking his escape route and he had to attack you, but even then would still be charged with resisting lawful arrest.

    If you use the weapon, all you have to prove is that it was necessary (ie you believed that an attack was imminent and that you would be unable to deal with it empty handed) and that the force you used was proportionate to what you believed the other person was likely to do to you (or trying to do to you).
  9. old palden

    old palden Valued Member

    My philosophy is that there should only be one story in the wake of such unfortunate events, and I should be the guy telling it.
  10. Moi

    Moi Warriors live forever x

    Just get rid of the body.
  11. Alansmurf

    Alansmurf Aspire to Inspire before you Expire Supporter

    an American tale

    A prolific burglar has been killed after his neck was severely cut and his left hand chopped off in a samurai sword attack, US police have said.

    Samurai swords are banned in England and Wales

    Just days after being released from prison, the man was spotted allegedly breaking into the garage of a house that was rented by four students.

    The group asked him to stop and while they called police, the man lunged at one of them, who retaliated by striking him with the sword, officers said.

    The unnamed man, who studies medicine at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University, has been questioned by police about the incident off campus early on Tuesday.

    But he may not be charged if he is found to have acted in self-defence.

    The student had recently reported a burglary in which thieves reportedly took laptop computers and a Sony PlayStation.

    Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said: "I think everyone has the right to first of all defend themselves and defend their home.

    "And if this individual felt that a samurai sword was an appropriate tool to do so, I'm not in a position to say that's good or bad."

    The burglar, who was in his late 40s, had a history of break-ins and was released from prison last Saturday, Mr Guglielmi said.

    America, where the right to bear arms is constitutionally protected, has few restrictions on owning swords and samurai ones are legal.

    They are banned in England and Wales, with exception of collectors.

    The incident in Baltimore was the latest tragedy involving a top US university.

    On Monday, police found the body of a 24-year-old Yale University student stuffed in a laboratory wall.

    Oops he killed the bad guy !
  12. JaxMMA

    JaxMMA Feeling lucky, punk?

    Finally people using swords for something other than wall decorations.
  13. Atre

    Atre Valued Member

    The problem is that if you pick up a really nasty piece of kit before you confront the burglar (eg. samurai sword, BIG knife from the kitchen) then there starts to be a case for "premeditated assault on the burglar", and what you've chosen as a weapon can only be used to really injure and not restrain - which does suggest you confronted the burglar with all the wrong intentions.

    Whether any prosecution is at the whim of the CPS, but not doing yourself any favours by making dodgy moves. Also the burglar might sue, maybe a good reason to kill him :p.

    Personally I'd go for a cricket bat/hammer - a weapon I wouldn't be afraid to use. With a knife I know it's likely to get lethal if I use it, and I'll get the *******'s blood all over my stuff and need to repaint/recarpet/move out; not to mention getting nasty HIV/Hep/whatever blood all over me...
  14. adouglasmhor

    adouglasmhor Not an Objectivist

    They gave him a chance to stop, he reacted in a violent manner, you are under no option to restrain the criminal, only to give him an option that will not end up badly for him, escape, surrender, etc. Personally in my days as an arborist my bilhook would have been number one on what a burglar would see before having to make a decision, in the days of coal fires pokers and coke hammers were the home defence in many a Glasgow tenement flat.
    A billhook (tree gardeners tool)

  15. garth

    garth Valued Member

    From what I remember citizens arrest is applicable for any offence that if convicted carries more than five years in prison. So for example

    Criminal Damage (Bicycle lock) can be arrested by a citizen

    Burglary can be arrested by citizens arrest.

    Now using weapons to defend yourself in your own home might be a tricky one. You would need to prove that it was necesary in the defence of yourselves or your family.

    If the burglar was simply filling up his sack then to hit him over te head with a hammer/sword etc would not be reasonable and may be difficult to justify in a court of law.

  16. Dan Bian

    Dan Bian Neither Dan, nor Brian

    For the UK:

  17. John Titchen

    John Titchen Still Learning Supporter

    add to that Article 2 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (right to life and the circumstances in a which a life may be lawfully taken) and you've your basic operating framework.
  18. Dan Bian

    Dan Bian Neither Dan, nor Brian

    Added :) :

    I chucked the bit about torture in, just incase anyone is thinking of "teaching them a lesson".
  19. Moosey

    Moosey invariably, a moose Supporter

    Dan Bian, good to see it laid out so clearly, but my question was not about defending yourself from attack, it was about defending your property from theft. So, the guidelines for using force "proportionate to the danger to your person" are slightly more fuzzy, surely?

    If I see a person fiddling with my bike lock in the street, the danger to my person is effectively zero, which would suggest that the proportionate level of force would be zero. However, the law states that I have the right to defend my property. I was just wondering how I could do that and stay on the right side of the law.
  20. Dan Bian

    Dan Bian Neither Dan, nor Brian

    Ask, and I shall provide :)

    And for anyone who may be wondering about what "Reasonable Force" is in the eyes of the law:

    [quote="Know Your Rights" - Readers Digest 1997]
    Any resort to violence must be reasonably measured.
    Reasonable force may be used to defend yourself, or ohers, or your property, to prevent a crime, to make a citizens arrest, or to help the police to arrest a suspect. The interpretation of 'reasonable force' depends on several factors. These include the gravity of the crime you were trying to prevent, whether or not it was possible to prevent it by non-violent means, and whether you were ready to try these means first, and the relative strength of the parties involved. If there are any grounds for believing that a person used unreasonable force, he or she may be charged with an offence ranging from assault to murder - depending upon the nature and extent of the injury caused. The police generally discourage people from defending themselves or their property with offensive weapons.
    To convict someone who has used violence in self-defence or crime prevention, a court must be satisfied that no reasonable person in a similar position and with the same time to reflect would have considered the level of violence used to be jstified.

    Striking the first blow.
    You do not have to wait for someone to use force against you before taking action: you can strike the first blow and still plead self defence. But you would have to convince a court that you were so imminently threatened with violence that there was no alternative - except to offer no defence at all. Where it transpires that there was a mistaken presumption about an actual or potential attacker - for example, that the attacker was armed when he or she was not - a person pleading self defence will be judged in the light of what he or she believed at that time, not according to the facts that were discovered later.[/quote]

    Hope this stuff is of help to people.

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