Page last updated at 18:07 GMT, Monday, 10 December 2012

Peers pass amendment allowing more force against burglars

Peers have passed a government amendment to allow more legal protection for householders who react with force when confronted by burglars.

Members of the House of Lords were taking part in a report stage debate on the Crime and Courts Bill, on 10 December 2012.

The government introduced an amendment to the bill, following an announcement by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling at the Conservative party conference in October, to raise the bar higher than the current "proportionate" force test.

"Grossly disproportionate" force will still be against the law in England and Wales.

A number of crossbench peers spoke out against the proposals, saying that the current law was adequate to protect people using force when faced with a burglar in their own home.

Leading QC Lord Pannick, an independent crossbencher, said the amendment was "unnecessary and unprincipled" and would conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights.

He told peers: "It is one thing to allow the householder to use proportionate force and to assess that on the basis of what they honestly and reasonably understand the facts to be at the time they act in circumstances of shock and stress.

"It is surely a very different matter for Parliament to authorise the use of disproportionate force."

Labour peer Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws, also a QC, said: "There is now a Dutch auction that goes on between the political parties about who can be tougher on law and order and this is about seeking to appeal to a fear in the public that is already met by law. It really is the poorest kind of legislative endeavour."

Labour abstained on the vote, but Lord Beecham, the party's justice spokesman in the Lords, said the plans had been "spatchcocked into the bill at virtually the last minute, almost it would seem as an initiation rite performed by the new Lord Chancellor [Chris Grayling]".

But Justice Minister Lord McNally denied the new provisions would amount to a "charter for vigilantes".

He told peers: "What we are trying to do is to rebalance the law so that householders will not be thought of as criminals but as victims."

Peers voted by 206 to 55, a majority of 151, in favour of the government proposals.

You can view part two of the debate here

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