HOUSEHOLDERS who react with force when confronted by a burglar in their own home are to be given more legal protection.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling outlined plans to toughen up burglary laws at the Conservative Party conference yesterday. They will see the current 'proportionate' test which is currently applied to acts of force extended.
Once implemented it will mean residents will be protected legally should they use force 'in the heat of the moment' against an intruder which in the 'cold light of day' might seem excessive – as long as the force used is not "grossly disproportionate".
Don Kempster, chairman of the Cheltenham Neighbourhood Watch Association, has welcomed the news.
He said: "Yes, if as a result of it the law is on their side, I am all for that. I am pleased that he is extending the law so that people do not have to think 'did I break the law when I hit that burglar when he came into to my home?'
"I think the extension of the law is a good thing and it is nice to hear that we will have the law to support us with whatever action we take, as long as that action is reasonable of course."
Mr Kempster added that the association's 'chief aim' was to ensure homes were as secure as possible to make it "as difficult as possible" for burglars to break in in the first place.
Speaking at the conference, Mr Grayling said: "None of us would really know how we would react if someone broke into our house. Householders acting instinctively and in self-defence are victims, not criminals."
Inspector Alistair Barby from Gloucestershire police used to lead on burglary investigations in Cheltenham and worked with the Echo on the Beat the Burglar campaign, to reduce the number of burglaries in the town.
He said he welcomed "anything that allowed people to feel more secure in their homes" but reserved overall judgement until the plans were made concrete.
A Gloucestershire police spokesman added: "The current position is that existing law enshrines the right of any citizen to defend themselves, others and their belongings with reasonable force.
"Joint guidance from ACPO and the Crown Prosecution Service contains advice to householders and the use of force against intruders. Anyone can use reasonable force to protect themselves or others, or to carry out an arrest or to prevent crime."