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Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Shopkeeper Florist Raid Case: Ministers Plan Overhaul Of Self Defence Laws

Pressure is mounting on the government to speed up new legislation on self defence clarifying the law on self-defence in England in the wake of cases such as those of shopkeeper Cecil Coley

72-year-old shopkeeper Cecil Coley.

Police officers guard a house in Salford after a suspected burglar was stabbed to death during a break-in.

Police officers at the murder scene on Ethel Avenue in Salford.

Ministers are planning to clarify the law on self-defence in England, after a string of cases where home owners have faced prosecution for defending their property.

The arrest of Mr Coley, 72, on suspicion of murder following the death of Gary Mullings, 30, who had broken into his shop in Old Trafford placed the issue back in the national media spotlight.

Last month’s stabbing came just days after the Crown Prosecution Service decided no charges should be brought against householder Peter Flanagan, 59, who was arrested on suspicion of murder after the fatal stabbing of a burglar.

John Bennell, 27, was attacked after he broke into his home in, Pendlebury, Salford, in June.

The incident occurred just a few miles from Mr Coley's store in Old Trafford, Manchester.

The incidents led to calls for the Government to speed up new legislation clarifying the law on self-defence in England.

Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, had earlier said that householders who used “whatever force necessary” against intruders would not be committing a criminal offence .

David Cameron has also promised that the new Justice Bill would "put beyond doubt that home owners and small shopkeepers who use reasonable force to defend themselves or their properties will not be prosecuted".

Under the current law, home owners who use “reasonable force” – which is no more than is absolutely necessary – to protect themselves against intruders should not be prosecuted.

In late June Mr Clarke spelt out the sort of action that would be permitted under the new regime.

He made clear that it would remain illegal to pursue intruders to attack them or to shoot them as they fled.

Speaking about a person’s right to self-defence in their homes, Mr Clarke said there was "constant doubt" about the issue and the proposed legislation would make this "much clearer".

The Justice Secretary said: "It's quite obvious that people are entitled to use whatever force is necessary to protect themselves and their homes.

"If an old lady finds she has got an 18 year-old burgling her house and she picks up a kitchen knife and sticks it in him, she has not committed a criminal offence and we will make that clear.

“We will make it quite clear you can hit the burglar with the poker if he's in the house and you have a perfect defence when you do so."

He added: “We all know what we mean when we say a person has an absolute right to defend themselves and their home and reasonable force.

"Nobody should prosecute and nobody should ever convict anybody who takes those steps."

Labour said the law was "already clear" and the remarks were a "smokescreen" to hide confusion over sentencing changes.

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