The country's most senior judge has defended the right of people to use force against burglars – escalating the row over the use of weapons by householders.
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, said homeowners should not be expected to act rationally when confronted by an intruder: "The householder is not in a position to exercise calm, cool judgement."
Anti-gun campaigners said his remarks could encourage more people to open fire on criminals.
The row follows remarks by Judge Michael Pert as he sentenced two criminals who were shot after they broke into a cottage in Leicestershire. "If you burgle a house in the country where the householder owns a legally held shotgun, that is the chance you take. You cannot come to court and ask for a lighter sentence because of it," he said
Lord Judge intervened yesterday to say that homeowners could not be expected to act rationally when confronted by an intruder.
The country's most senior judge said: "You're not calmly detached, you're probably very cross and you're probably very frightened, a mixture of both."
He added: "If your home is burgled, you have the right to get rid of the burglar. You've got to put yourself in the position of the man or woman who has reacted to the presence of a burglar and has reacted with fury, with anxiety, with fear and with all the various different emotions.
"This is your haven, this is your refuge, this is where you have the right to be safe. The burglar takes your property, but even if you're not at home... there is a sense of violation and it destroys peace of mind – and if your peace of mind in your home is destroyed you have lost something immensely precious.
"A predecessor of mine 400 years ago said, 'Your home is your castle'. This is the place where you pull up the drawbridge and the moat makes you safe. Your home is your safe place, so burglary is always serious."
Chris Grayling, the new Justice Secretary, welcomed the judge's words and hinted that crime victims could be given further rights of self defence – a constant demand of Tory activists.
But Gill Marshall-Andrews, the chair of the Gun Control Network, said: "This kind of comment is likely to escalate gun use and encourage people to use their guns for self defence which wasn't the purpose for which licences are granted."
Chris Grayling, the new Justice Secretary, said this week: "Being confronted by an intruder in your own home is terrifying, which is why the public should be in no doubt the law is on their side."
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