Self defence has hit the headlines once again, following the conviction of Munir Hussain.

Mr. Hussain, a successful businessman and pillar of the community, was at home when a gang of armed burglars broke in, tied up members of his family, and threatened them with violence. Mr. Hussain and his brother pursued them from his home, caught one and beat him severely with a cricket bat.


His conviction was on the grounds that the intruder was no longer a threat, and in any event, the force used was excessive and disproportionate. He was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment.

I remember not so long ago this very topic being debated in the House of Commons. However, it was accompanied by a lot of back sliding and handwringing, and nothing got done. Were it ever thus!

It is not an easy issue to resolve, because, as the law is presently drafted, there are so many shades of grey, and no reliable guidance for the police, the Crown Prosecution Service or the courts. It’s a lottery whether or not charges are laid. The judge directing the jury is obliged to tell them that whilst the degree of force used in self defence cannot be weighed to a nicety in the heat of the moment, it must be proportionate to the imminent threat. So juries are routinely told that if the burglar is wielding a knife, the householder cannot take out a gun and shoot him. Why not?

Two examples of force which might be deemed to be excessive by some dimwit in the CPS will suffice. The householder is disturbed by an intruder, and arms himself with a poker. He confronts the intruder, often at night and in a darkened room. The intruder comes menacingly towards him, so the householder strikes him a blow on the head, and the intruder falls to the ground. The householder is faced with a dilemma. Is the intruder out cold, at least long enough for Plod to turn up and arrest him, or is the intruder faking unconsciousness and waiting for the householder to lower his guard? So to be on the safe side, the householder strikes the intruder a second time, and kills him.

If the unfortunate Mr. Hussain’s experience is a case in point, the householder may well be charged with murder, and if convicted, given a mandatory life sentence with at least 12 years to serve.

The second example is where the householder arms himself with a loaded gun, and confronts the intruder. The intruder calls his bluff, and advances on him menacingly. The householder knows that if the intruder manages to get the gun from his grasp, he may well use it, so the householder shoots him dead. The same consequences follow.

In the United States, where the right to bear arms is enshrined in the Constitution, no such qualms arise. A householder is at liberty to shoot dead an intruder, even where the intruder has fled. Some would argue that it simply exacerbates the problem, as intruders are more likely to go armed. That may be so, but if the intruder knows that the householder has the right to shoot him if caught, it seems to be a price worth paying.

Self defence should be made lawful, full stop, and not bound around with ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ to make it a lottery. Why should decent, law abiding householders have their liberty taken away, and their lives, and the lives of their loved ones whom they were seeking to protect, ruined beyond redemption? Let’s leave it to decent, law abiding householders to determine what is right and wrong, and not the police, or the CPS or the courts.

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David is an English barrister, writer, public performer and keynote speaker. His full profile can be found on his website.

One thought on “KILL OR BE KILLED”

  1. Self defence is legal. Killing or injuring someone for entering your home is not.

    People are able to defend themselves but at the same time people are not allowed to seek deadly vengeance against trespassers. If you kill or injure someone using proportional force while your life is in danger this is self defence. If you kill or injure someone when your life is not in danger that’s not self defence. Chasing someone down the road and hitting them with a cricket bat till the bat breaks, as Hussain did, doesn’t sound like defending yourself to me. He’d been very severely provoked but that’s a different defence.

    Whether or not you should be able to injure someone for invading your home is an entirely separate issue to self defence.

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