A new study has found that an enormous majority of people think it is acceptable to use force to protect their home - with just 3% of people saying such violence is never justified. When asked about the circumstances under which force becomes acceptable, 49% say a burglar simply being in their home is reason enough to use force.
So what would persuade you towards violence, and is this really wise?
ViolenceThe survey by insurer RIAS found that the main reason people would be prepared to use force was to protect family members (71%), while 60% would consider force justified if they felt threatened, and 37% would if they saw a burglar holding their belongings.
When asked about the kinds of force that were acceptable, one in five would attack them physically, almost one in ten would punch or kick them, one in five would push them or hold them down, and more than a third would restrain them until the police arrived.
The good news is that for most people, physical attack wouldn't be their first move. Over half (52%) said that if they were home when someone broke in they would call the police first, one in ten would try verbal attacks, one in ten would try to chase them out of the house, and one in six would attack.
Is this wise?In legal terms, anyone is allowed to use reasonable force to protect themselves or others, or to prevent crime. You are not expected to make fine judgments over the level of force you use in the heat of the moment, as long as you only do what you honestly and instinctively believe is necessary.
This does not, however, protect you if the authorities decide you have used a disproportionate level of force; if you have gone 'over the top' or attacked out of revenge or retribution. The Crown Prosecution Service uses the example of: "If, for example, you had knocked an intruder unconscious and then went on to kick and punch them repeatedly, such an action would be more likely to be considered grossly disproportionate."
However, even where the law allows you to use reasonable force, in reality this is a seriously risky approach. Richard Taylor, reformed thief and star of Channel 5's 'It Takes a Thief To Catch a Thief', comments: "There's no doubt that having your home targeted by burglars is a terrible experience, but even though an intruder won't consider your own personal safety, you must. Valuables and possessions can be replaced, but your life, and your family members' lives, can't."
"Whilst your instinct may be to confront or try and use physical force to restrain and capture burglars in your home, you could be placing your life in danger, and it simply isn't worth it. You don't know their history. External influences such as drugs can make behaviour unpredictable." As long as your belongings are insured, you have less to lose in letting a burglar leave with your possessions than you have to lose from confronting them.
Protect yourselfTaylor says that rather than focus on trying to stop a burglar in the process of a burglary, the best approach is to prevent the burglary in the first place. He recommends:
1) Create 'burglar barriers': low hedges at the front of the house create a physical barrier to get over, while creating a mental barrier for burglars who are still visible from the street.
2) Prepare a noisy environment: a barking dog and a noisy gravel drive will put burglars off your property.
3) Look 'lived in' – even when you're away: If you are away from home for long periods of time make use of timer switches to turn lights on, speak to a neighbour or postman to make sure post and papers don't pile up, and keep your curtains shut.
4) Lock it up, even inside: a determined burglar will get in if he wants to, so think about a safe for your most important valuables and possessions.
5) Protect yourself from ID theft: don't leave bank or credit card statements lying around, as any burglar may instantly have access to thousands of pounds.
6) Hide your keys: don't leave keys out in the open or in an obvious drawer – this could allow a burglar repeat access to your property, and even access to your car.