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Divisional Court considers ECHR compatibility of Householder Defence law


 The Divisional Court (Sir Brian Leveson P and Mr Justice Cranston) has clarified the circumstances in which the so called “Householder Defence” law introduced by the Crime and Courts Act 2013 affords a defence to those who use disproportionate force against people believed to be intruders in their home.

The Court was considering the case of Denby Collins, who has been in a coma since December 2013, having been put in a neck lock and restrained on the floor by a householder who claimed to believe that Denby was an intruder into his home. The CPS declined to prosecute anyone with an offence of violence in relation to Mr Collins’ injuries, citing the Householder Defence law. Mr Collins’ father, acting on Mr Collins’ behalf, asked the court to declare that the householder defence is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), in particular article 2 which requires contracting states to establish a framework of laws, precautions, procedures and means of enforcement which will, to the greatest extent reasonably practicable, protect life.

The Court concluded that the amendments did not extend the ambit of the law of self-defence but instead provided emphasis to the requirement to consider “all the circumstances permitting a degree of force to be used on an intruder in householder cases which is reasonable in all the circumstances (whether that degree of force was disproportionate or less than disproportionate)”. That being so, the Court concluded that the 2013 amendments did not alter the test to permit, in all circumstances, the use of disproportionate force, and that the CPS had adopted the wrong test when considering whether a prosecution ought to have been brought. The Court concluded that, when interpreted in this way, the provision did not offend Article 2 of the ECHR. Mr Collins’ father is now considering an appeal.

The judgment is here and a link to press coverage is here. 

Paul Bowen QC and Malcolm Birdling appeared for the Claimant, instructed by Hickman Rose.