Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have a question about policing or the law? You may be able to find the answer here.
Through our frequently asked questions section we aim to help you find the answers you need without having to call us to ask for information. We've provided answers to questions on a range of topics which are regularly asked of police forces up and down the country.
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It is very rare for a person to be confronted by an intruder in their home. Advice from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the National Police Chiefs in relation to "reasonable force" has been prepared in the form of a leaflet which is available at your local police station, also see link in related information. However, listed below is a brief summary of that advice.
In all cases if possible you should call the police.
In the heat of the moment it is not expected that you should make fine judgements as to how far you can go. What you honestly and instinctively believe is lawful and necessary self defence for either yourself, your family or your property, even if a weapon is used, could constitute reasonable force.
You do not have to be attacked first to be able to use reasonable force in self defence.
Even if the intruder dies, provided you have used reasonable force in the circumstances described then you will not necessarily be prosecuted. If, having disabled the intruder you then go on and inflict further punishment then this would be deemed to be excessive and gratuitous force and you could be prosecuted.
If you suspect that a person is going to break into your house and you set a trap, rather than involve the police then this would not be deemed to be self defence or reasonable force.
If the intruder escapes with some of your property or you chase after them to effect a citizen's arrest you are still allowed to use reasonable force. The degree of force in this instance may have considerably reduced and a rugby tackle or a single blow would suffice. To go beyond this as a form of punishment would again make you liable to a prosecution for assault and possibly civil action.
It should be understood that the Police will always have a duty to investigate this type of incident, but the Police and CPS will always objectively assess all the facts recognising in the first instance that the intruder caused the situation to arise in the first place.