Bash burglars, says Widdecombe

Ann Widdecombe last night said householders should not be prosecuted if they attack and injure intruders.

The Shadow Home Secretary called for a change in the way the law was applied, saying it was unacceptable that people are taken to court for "hitting a burglar over the head". Political opponents immediately rounded on Miss Widdecombe for sanctioning what amounted to a "cosher's charter".

A senior Labour party source said: "There is a sense the Tories are willing to jump on any populist bandwagon at the moment to shore up their support."

There has been widespread sympathy for Tony Martin, the Norfolk farmer convicted of murder last week for shooting a teenage burglar, with many people believing in a householder's right to defend property with force.

Miss Widdecombe told the Independent on Sunday that the police and the Crown Prosecution Service should not take legal action against people who used violence against intruders, apart from in the most extreme circumstances.

She said: "In a case where there's a dead body on the floor there would have to be a trial. But if you go down to what is far more common, which is people who are hitting a burglar over the head, then my view is that it is unacceptable that a person is at risk of prosecution. There needs to be a much greater presumption on the part of the police and the Crown Prosecution Service that force is reasonable in those circumstances and, therefore, there won't be a case to answer."

Her remarks caused instant controversy as Labour politicians accused Miss Widdecombe of cashing in on public sympathy for Martin.

Paul Stinchcombe, Labour MP and a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: "We have already got a law on this: you are allowed to use reasonable force to protect your home and yourself and that seems to me to be the right position. To give people carte blanche to commit violence is the wrong way forward."

Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, declined to comment on the issue last night. But last year he called for an end to the "walk on by" culture in Britain, urging people to tackle criminals.

Miss Widdecombe said: "I think it's quite right to say have a go as long as one is responsible about it. But one of the reasons why people don't intervene is because they are afraid they will end up on the end of a prosecution."

Miss Widdecombe's stance was supported by Norman Brennan, director of the Victims of Crime Trust. He said: "When you are confronted at 2am by an intruder, your rationality for dealing with someone is going to be a lot different than in the cold light of day."

Yesterday an 84-year-old woman suffered a fractured skull when she was attacked by a burglar in her home in Devon.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own