Richard Osborn-Brooks has been arrested on suspicion of murder after the fatal stabbing of a suspected burglar. (Independent)
This has caused outrage, as you can imagine, particularly amongst the tabloids because “YOU CANT DEFEND YOURSELF ITS PC GON MAD CRIMINALS HAVE MORE RIGHTS THAN LAW ABIDING CITIZENS”
Except slow down.
Firstly, the law says that you can use reasonable and proportionate force to defend yourself in any situation. If your life is in danger then you can use whatever force is necessary to stop that from happening. On the other hand, if an ex-partner slaps you in the face then it would be unreasonable force to stab them. Reasonable would be to walk away or, if that’s not possible, grab their arms or pin them to stop it happening again.
If Richard simply defended his home when his life was in danger and his actions ultimately resulted in the death of a burglar then he has not committed an offence.
Arrested, not charged
Secondly, he has been arrested. Not charged, not prosecuted, not convicted. In the event of any death, it is reasonable for the police to take precautions and arrest a suspect until the full facts can be ascertained.
If I defended myself in a situation and my attacker subsequently died, I would fully expect the police to arrest me until they have all the facts. I expect that I would be released without charge or at the very least after successfully defending myself in court.
We don’t have the full story
We’ve been through this before. Tony Martin, a farmer, shot and killed a burglar and was subsequently arrested and charged with murder. “YOU CANT DEFEND YOURSELF ANY MORE!!!!” cried the tabloid headlines.
Later we got the full facts.
Tony Martin shot and killed a burglar using an illegal gun. Tony Martin shot and killed a burglar in the back while the burglar was fleeing the property – i.e. no longer a threat. Tony Martin was lying in wait for the burglar(s) and lied to the police about his movements and reactions.
The dead burglar’s accomplice was charged and convicted of burglary, and Martin was charged and convicted of murder by a jury of peers who looked at the full circumstances of the case. He used grossly disproportionate force and an illegal weapon to defend his home.
Let’s hold fire on the outrage
We don’t know the full story of how or why Richard Osborn-Brooks allegedly killed the intruder. The police have arrested him but as far as we, the public, know that was simply as a precaution. If he used grossly disproportionate force and there are details we don’t yet know, as it turned out was the case with Tony Martin, then he will likely be charged. If he didn’t and he was defending himself then he won’t be charged.
We’ve gone through this outrage before and the public’s opinion, led by tabloid outrage, turned out to be wrong. Let’s learn from our past mistakes and wait for the full facts before declaring that we can’t defend our homes.