The Criminal Law (Amendment Householder Protection) Bill, tabled by shadow minister for homeland security Patrick Mercer MP, states that the law should be amended so that anyone using force in the prevention of crime or in the defence of themselves, their family or property should not face prosecution unless the degree of force was grossly disproportionate.
While much of the emphasis of the Bill is on the rights of the homeowner, following public reaction to high-profile cases such as that of Norfolk farmer Tony Martin who was jailed for shooting a burglar in 1999, the law would also cover commercial premises.
Mercer said the law would be a powerful deterrent to intruders and those threatening violence against shop staff. “Currently, the fear of imprisonment and physical harm lies with the shopkeeper and not with the intruder,” he said. “We need to change the law so that shop owners and householders understand that they can use force to protect themselves, their families and their property and that they will not be subject to months of pressure and anguish while waiting to go in front of a judge who then tells them that they should not have been charged in the first place.”
The Bill has cross-party backing with the Conservative leadership throwing its full weight behind it. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens has also endorsed it.
The Bill will receive its Second Reading and First Debate in the Commons on February 4.
As the first name to be pulled out of the hat in a ballot to put forward a law of their choice, Mercer has a good chance of getting his Bill through.
However, a general election could delay it.