A Government minister today said that a homeowner arrested on suspicion of shooting two suspected burglars at his isolated farmhouse is a victim and should not be prosecuted.
The householder, named locally as Andy Ferrie, 35, was arrested in the early hours of yesterday morning after he allegedly grabbed a legally-held shotgun and fired at a group of intruders inside the house in Welby, Leicestershire.
He then called the police, who arrested him and his wife Tracey, 43, on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm. They had reportedly been burgled on several previous occasions.
The two shot men were stable in hospital today with injuries that were not life-threatening, according to police. They and two other men have been arrested on suspicion of aggravated burglary.
The homeowners’ MP, Alan Duncan, today said that the police should focus on the burglars. "If this is a straightforward case of someone using a shotgun to defend themselves against burglars in the dead of night, then I would hope that the police will prosecute the burglars and not my constituents," said Mr Duncan, an international development minister.
“The householder is the victim here and justice should support them and prosecute the burglars."
The Government said there was confusion over the issue of legitimate self-defence which would be clarified in legislation that comes into effect in the autumn. The Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, said that people were entitled to use “whatever force necessary” to protect themselves and their homes.
“What they are not entitled to do is to go running down the road and chasing them or to shoot them in the back when they are running away or to get their friends together and beat them up,” he said announcing the changes last year.
However, Labour criticised the changes as a “smokescreen” and said that the law was already clear about being homeowners being able to use reasonable force to defend themselves.
The case is the latest apparent test of the law following the case of Tony Martin, the Norfolk farmer who was jailed for murder after killing a teenage intruder at his house in 1999 and injuring his accomplice with a pump-action shotgun. The conviction was later reduced to manslaughter on appeal and he was released from prison in 2003.
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said yesterday that “homeowners and shopkeepers who use reasonable force to defend themselves or their properties will not be prosecuted”.
“People are not obliged to retreat when defending themselves or their homes.”
Police were today given more time to question to question the Ferries and the four suspected burglars, aged 27, 23, 31 and 33. The force declined to comment on Mr Duncan’s intervention because of the continuing inquiry.