Homeowners need to be confident they can defend themselves

Morning View
Morning View

Most readers who read through the news stories in yesterday’s News Letter will have noticed the story about a pensioner who appeared to have stabbed an intruder.

Richard Osborn-Brooks was arrested after the incident at his property in south-east London around 1am on Wednesday. He was reported to have been held on suspicion of murder and released on bail.

It was a disturbing report. Mr Osborn-Brooks was aged almost 80 and had just experienced the terror of encountering intruders in his home and a physical confrontation.

One intruder then died in the street, reportedly after an accomplice tried but failed to drage him to a getaway van.

There will be a UK-wide collective sigh of relief today at on news that Mr Osborn-Brooks faces no further action.

We do not know the details of the incident but the dead man, Henry Vincent, had been linked a burglary of a man in his 70s earlier this year. That suggests a history of carrying out the extremely serious offence of burgling the homes of old people — a grave breach of trust for which anyone who is found guilty should be jailed for many years.

We must reassure homeowners they will receive the utmost help in such circumstances, even if no violence is used or threatened. But if it is, there will be a presumption of the justification of self defence if the owner responds with force.

And even if they overstep the mark, the horrifying situation in which they found themselves will weigh heavily in their favour when the authorities come to examine the facts.