Chris Grayling, in his first speech as justice secretary today, is expected to give an indication as to where his priorities might lie by calling on all community sentences to have a punitive element and for greater protections for homeowners who over-react when confronted by a burglar. It has been widely reported that householders who attack burglars will be promised stronger legal protection by in his speech to the Tory party conference in Birmingham.
- BBC political editor Nick Robinson said the Conservatives had gone from ‘hug a hoodie’ to ‘bash a burglar’.
- The story was reported in The Sun as follows: ‘It’s official: You can batter a burglar’.
- Chris Grayling has long called for the law to be changed to protect homeowners – see HERE.
- His proposals have been roundly attacked by lawyers – see HERE.
Chris Grayling is expected to outline plans to change the law so that even householders who react in a way that may seem disproportionate in the cold light of day will be protected from prosecution. ‘Being confronted by an intruder in your own home is terrifying, and the public should be in no doubt that the law is on their side,’ Grayling is expected say. ‘That is why I am strengthening the current law.’
‘Householders who act instinctively and honestly in self defence are victims of crime and should be treated that way. We need to dispel doubts in this area once and for all, and I am very pleased to be today delivering on the pledge that we made in opposition.’
Force that is ‘grossly disproportionate’ would still be against the law – but this is a higher bar than the current law which says force must always be proportionate.
The right to defend oneself against burglars has been a political issue since the case of Tony Martin, the farmer prosecuted for shooting dead a burglar in 1999.
Grayling is also expected to say that community sentences will be toughened up to ensure that every one of the orders handed out to 220,000 offenders each year will include a ‘proper punishment’.
‘Yes, we should be looking to rehabilitate,’ he is expected to say referring to his predecessor Ken Clarke’s plans for a rehabilitation revolution. ‘But if someone has committed an offence, they also need to receive a proper punishment for it. That’s part of how we can tackle re-offending and make these sentences really effective.’’
New powers to impose location monitoring for those given community orders will also be brought in and the £5,000 limit on compensation orders handed out by magistrates will also be lifted.
Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon's books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council's journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year's Criminal Justice Alliance's journalism award