LETTER : A man's home or his prison?

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The Independent Online
From Dr Gary Slapper

Sir: "The house of everyone", it was proclaimed in a case in 1604, "is to him as his castle and fortress". This cherished credo is now open to widespread doubt, and whether a householder who injures or kills an intruder is convicted of a crime ("When have a go means death", 4 January) is highly unpredictable in the context of current law and practice.

The law on self-defence has remained essentially the same for decades. The reason why its uncertainties are now increasingly exposed to public scrutiny is that it is being relied upon more frequently by people trying to defend themselves and their property. One piece of Home Office research has shown that a patrolling police officer in London would only be likely to come within 100 yards of a burglary in progress once every eight years, and even then he would not necessarily know that the crime was taking place.

Rather than simply focus our attentions on prosecutorial policy, the current debate about have-a-go-heroes should address the crucial social and economic problems of epidemic property crime and a crumbling policing system.

Yours faithfully,

Gary Slapper

Law School

Staffordshire University

Stoke-on-Trent

5 January

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