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Last Updated: Friday, 30 April, 2004, 14:34 GMT 15:34 UK
'Tony Martin law' is blocked
MPs have heard calls for a tougher line against burglars
A proposal to give householders greater rights to forcibly tackle burglars has been blocked by the government.

Conservative MP Roger Gale wanted legal protection for people who believed they had acted in reasonable self defence against intruders.

But his Criminal Justice (Justifiable Conduct) Bill failed to make further progress in the House of Commons.

Home Office Minister, Fiona Mactaggart, said that it would have created a "spiral of violence and retaliation".

The proposal to allow householders the right to take unlimited action in defence of their homes followed a poll of BBC Radio 4 Today programme listeners, which found support for a "Tony Martin" law.

The Norfolk farmer's case sparked a national debate after he was jailed for the fatal shooting of a burglar in 1999.

Self defence

Mr Gale told MPs that his private member's bill addressed the "perception that the criminal justice system has moved towards treating the criminal as the victim".

And he argued that the only person who could say what represented reasonable self-defence was the person under threat from an intruder - and that the householder should be given the benefit of the doubt.

It would be a licence to kill with impunity
Fiona MacTaggart
Home Office Minister

His proposals would have protected householders from prosecution if they felt they had been forced to use violent means to protect themselves.

Rejecting the tag that this was "Tony Martin's Law", Mr Gale said the proposals reflected public opinion.

"I defy any MP to say hand on heart that people do not feel that the criminals have a better deal than the victims."


The measures put forward by the Thanet North MP would have allowed householders to determine what was a reasonable response.

Roger Gale
Roger Gale says that householders need more protection

"If I am upstairs and I hear somebody breaking into my home downstairs... I believe I have the right to protect myself by whatever means comes to hand so long as I believe that at the time I am doing what is necessary," said Mr Gale.

"That is my belief and the court cannot determine it. They do not know the fear that is in my belly at the time."

Supporting the measures, Conservative MP John Hayes, said that there was an urgent need to restore "popular faith in the rule of law".

But the proposals were rejected by Ms Mactaggart said that it was a "step too far" which would be a "licence to kill with impunity".

The minister said that the concerns over crime were taken very seriously, but that adopting a "might is right" approach was not the right response.

She said that it was for a jury to decide whether a threatened householder's actions were reasonable - and that giving complete immunity to any action was unacceptable.

'Dodge City'

Mr Gale had been spurred on to introduce his Bill after Today listeners were invited to vote on the private members' bill they would most want to see become law.

More than 26,000 votes were registered by listeners taking part in the poll and MP Stephen Pound was lined up to champion the winning bill.

But after listeners plumped for legislation that would protect homeowners' rights to defend themselves, the Labour politician appeared to withdraw his support, arguing: "This bill is unworkable," as it "endorses the slaughter of 16-year-old kids".

On Friday, Mr Pound attacked the proposals as a "knee-jerk" reaction which would create more problems than it would solve.

He said such a wide interpretation of self defence would mean the "law enforcement of Dodge City".

Broxtowe MP, Nick Palmer, said that the proposals were a "licence for madmen" which could see youngsters being shot for trying to get their footballs back from their neighbour's garden.

Martin delighted to be home
08 Aug 03  |  Norfolk
Reform call over Martin case
28 Jul 03  |  Norfolk

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