Judges have backed ‘bash a burglar’ laws that give householders the right to use force to tackle intruders.

In a landmark ruling, the High Court said allowing people to use ‘disproportionate’ levels of violence to protect themselves and their families from housebreakers did not breach human rights laws.

The so-called ‘householder defence’ law was brought in by then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling in 2013.

But what became known as the bash-a-burglar’ law  was recently challenged by the family of a man who has been in a coma for more than two years. This was the result of being tackled by a homeowner when he entered a home at 3am in the morning, December 2013

Denby Collins, 39, was held in a headlock by several terrified members of the household in Gillingham, Kent. By the time the police arrived to arrest him on suspicion of burglary he was unconscious. He was taken to hospital but has remained in a coma ever since.

According to the Mail Newspaper, Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders decided in September 2014 not to prosecute the homeowner, known only as ‘B’ for legal reasons.

Under the rules, a person is permitted to use ‘disproportionate force’ to challenge an intruder in their home, which could include the use of lethal force. Only ‘grossly disproportionate’ force is illegal.

Mr Collins’s father Peter, who disputes that his son was an intruder, launched a legal battle claiming the ‘bash a burglar’ laws contravened Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects life.

But yesterday the High Court in London threw out the case. Two judges said the law was compatible with human rights legislation. Sir Brian Leveson, president of the Queen’s Bench Division, said: ‘A householder will only be able to avail himself of the defence if the degree of force he used was reasonable in the circumstances as he believed them to be.’

Mr Justice Cranston said the law ‘meant that in householder cases the force used in self-defence is not unreasonable simply because it is disproportionate, unless, of course, it is grossly disproportionate’.

He added: ‘The circumstances are likely to be rare, but one can envisage force being used by householders in self-defence which is objectively disproportionate but which is reasonable given what they believed those circumstances to be.’

Phil Hardy, Director of Securicare said, “It’s clear from reading many of the responses to this case that public sympathy lies with the homeowner. That having been said it must be understood that this law isn’t carte blanche to attack burglars or intruders. The repercussions of any actions taken will always extend beyond the event itself. It must have been a hugely stressful two years waiting for the outcome to this case, and who knows the psychological cost. Of course people serve the right to protect themselves, their families and property but fundamentally any forced used needs to be ‘reasonable in the circumstances’.


SecuriCare offer a range of courses designed to enable individuals to deal with all facets of conflict, aggression and violence.

Contact us for more information and to discuss your needs: E: trainers@securicare.com or T: 01904 492442

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