Man defending his property cleared in minutes
Andrew Woodhouse, a 44-year-old landscape gardener from Govilon, Monmouthshire, was on trial for attacking two men who were trying to steal diesel from his business. He grabbed a fence post that one of them was carrying as a weapon, and used it to cause significant injuries to one of the men.
A jury was considering GBH charges against him - and dismissed them in minutes.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
ClearedThe Daily Mail reported that Woodhouse was charged with GBH and GBH with intent, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Cardiff Crown Court heard that there had been a spate of thefts at his business, costing him more than £15,000 over the past five years, so when his alarm rang after midnight he sprang into action.
He grabbed a fence post that one of the thieves was carrying, and attacked one of the men, Kevin Green (53), breaking one of his arms and both his legs. Then he rugby-tackled the other man, Timothy Cross (32), and lay on him until the police arrived.
The BBC reported that the prosecution argued that it was unreasonable and unlawful: that Woodhouse lost his temper and went too far. Meanwhile the defence lawyer argued in court: "'If it hadn't been for him these men would not have been caught. Where are we in society when a person cannot act in self-defence to protect his property. That is what Mr Woodhouse was doing."
The jury acquitted him in 20 minutes. The two men have been fined £75 for burglary.
Your rightsThe Crown Prosecution Service says that it would always recommend calling the police instead of taking a burglar on. However, if you are faced with a burglar in your own home you are allowed to use reasonable force. It says: "So long as you only do what you honestly and instinctively believe is necessary in the heat of the moment, that would be the strongest evidence of you acting lawfully and in self-defence."
However, it adds: "If your action was 'over the top' or a calculated action of revenge or retribution, for example, this might amount to grossly disproportionate force for which the law does not protect you."
This applies, for instance, where the intruder is knocked unconscious and then further attacked, or where the householder set a trap. If someone was running off they could still use reasonable force to recover property or detain them - but not attack them for revenge.
In October last year the government said it would strengthen the law to allow people to use force in a way that instinctively seems necessary at the time, even if it may seem disproportionate in the cold light of day. However, the Crown Prosecution says that this is how the law works at the moment already and adds: "The law will give you the benefit of the doubt in these cases."
JailedThere are several people who have been to prison as a result of tackling a burglar.
Most famously Norfolk farmer Tony Martin was jailed for life in 1999 for shooting and killing a teenage burglar in his home. In 2001 the appeal court accepted that he had been suffering from a paranoid personality disorder and the sentence was reduced to 5 years for manslaughter.
In 2009 two brothers were jailed for attacking a fleeing burglar with a cricket bat. However, on appeal one brother had his sentenced reduced and suspended, while the other had his reduced to two years. The judge said that the fact that one brother and his family had been tied up and threatened played their part. He said: "The plain, simple reality is that [he] was acting under the continuing influence of extreme provocation. Involvement in this serious violence can only be understood as a response to the dreadful and terrifying ordeal and the emotional anguish which he had undergone."
A man from East Durham was jailed for four years at the end of last year. He and a friend had found three men trying to steal quad bikes from their property, and attacked one man so badly they broke his back.