Tories pledge extra protection for householders

A Conservative government would review legislation on householders' rights to protect themselves against burglars, shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said today.

Mr Grayling said the Tories would "look to provide the right level of protection for householders".

His comments follow the case of Buckinghamshire businessman Munir Hussain, who was last week jailed for 30 months after pursuing and beating a member of a gang who had tied up his family at knife-point in their home.

At present, the law allows householders to use "reasonable" force to defend themselves against intruders in their homes.

Two attempts by Conservative backbenchers to change the law to allow any force that is not "grossly disproportionate" failed in the Commons in 2004 and 2005.

In response to public concern, Justice Secretary Jack Straw last year issued a clarification spelling out that people would be protected legally if they defended themselves 'instinctively', they feared for their own safety or that of others, and the level of force used was not excessive or disproportionate.

But he was criticised for doing no more than restate the existing legal position.

Mr Grayling today told the Sunday Telegraph: "At the moment the law allows a defendant to use 'reasonable force' to protect him or herself, their family or their property.

"Conservatives argue that the defence that the law offers a householder should be much clearer, and that prosecutions and convictions should only happen in cases where courts judge the actions involved to be 'grossly disproportionate'."

Hussain was convicted last week of causing grievious bodily harm with intent, after he and his brother used a cricket bat to beat one of the intruders who broke into his home and threatened his family.

Judge John Reddihough last week noted Hussain's "courage" but said that he carried out a "dreadful, violent attack" on the intruder as he lay defenceless.

Former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy said he did not believe the law needs to be changed.

Mr Kennedy told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: "My own personal feeling is that it is best left to the courts. I think there is sufficient discretion in the existing legislation for the courts to judge each case on its individual circumstances.

"But there is no doubt that there is a considerable public head of steam about this."

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