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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 November, 2004, 13:06 GMT
Would you take on an intruder?
Ozzy Osbourne
Ozzy Osbourne has said he would tackle a burglar again
While police have praised rocker Ozzy Osbourne's courage in tackling a burglar in his home on Monday, the star has admitted he "acted on impulse" and was thankful no-one had been hurt.

The intruder fled after jumping from a first-floor window at the house in Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire.

"It could've got really ugly. I could have been badly injured or shot or anything," Osbourne said the following day.

Last month in Chiswick, west London, 45-year-old teacher Robert Symons died at his home from a stab wound he is believed to have sustained in a struggle with an intruder.

Incidents like these inevitably prompt people to ask themselves how they would react if they discovered an intruder in their home.

The police say that, where possible, people should avoid confronting intruders and "get the professionals in to deal with it".

Some people, when they are put in this situation, will fight
Ch Supt Rick Naylor
President, Police Superintendents' Association
Ch Supt Rick Naylor, president of the Police Superintendents' Association, says the best scenario if you feel somebody is in your home, would be to "ring 999 and stress that you are in your home, you believe there are intruders in there and you want an immediate police response".

"But we cannot deny that some people, when they are put in this situation, will fight. There are two syndromes: fight or flight.

"Each individual has to make up their own mind, and sometimes it is an automatic reaction."

Home Office guidance on dealing with an intruder advises: "Think about what you might do now - you might not be thinking clearly in a real incident."

While acknowledging that "only you can decide how to deal with the situation", it concludes that "it is generally best not to challenge an intruder".

Other tactics suggested by police and aimed at frightening off an intruder include switching on lights and the television or radio, and if you are alone pretending someone is with you by calling out to them.

Reasonable force

The law allows the use of "reasonable force" in self-defence or to defend another person or property, but it fails to define the term. It's up to the courts to make the decision on a case by case basis.

A judge last month backed Derbyshire farmer Kenneth Faulkner who shot and wounded a burglar who had raided his home three times.

Tony Martin
Tony Martin was jailed after shooting dead a burglar
But the high-profile case of Norfolk farmer Tony Martin saw him jailed for three years for shooting dead a teenage burglar in his home in 1999.

The Sunday Telegraph is campaigning for a reform of the law to allow householders use of whatever measures they feel are necessary to repel an intruder.

Former burglar Michael Fraser told the paper: "Burglars are a cowardly lot - it doesn't take much to frighten them off. I am certain that such a change in the law would act as a deterrent.

"Most burglars would make great lawyers. They know their rights. They know that if you touch them, they can have you arrested and charged."

The majority may be a "cowardly lot" but, as is alleged to be the case in the death of Robert Symons, tackling a burglar can be fatal.

You could be putting yourself into a much more dangerous situation
Martin Beale
Managing director, Praetorian Associates
Martin Beale, who spent 20 years in the Army and now runs security firm Praetorian Associates, says the problem is that every situation differs.

"You don't know yourself if you are going to be up for it, and you don't know how determined the aggressor is going to be."

In Ozzy Osbourne's case, a brief tussle appears to have been enough to frighten the burglar off.

Mr Beale said: "There have been instances with people where the body language is strong and positive, and the voice is strong and positive, and that is enough to deter people.

"But you could be putting yourself into a much more dangerous situation."


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