What are your rights when protecting your home?

Warren Lewis
1st November 2017
burglar 55

New data and analysis by Churchill Home Insurance has revealed that burglars explicitly try to avoid ever encountering a householder, with 86% saying if they heard a victim they would try to leave without meeting.

According to the research, three-quarters abandoned burglaries because they had heard an occupant in the house, or returning to the house, to avoid confrontation.  However, there are a minority of especially scary burglars termed ‘creepers’ who specialise in night time burglaries and who admit they hide to avoid discovery.  
This insight comes as new research from Churchill Home Insurance reveals members of the public don’t understand their rights when it comes to protecting their homes. Even though the chance of encountering a burglar is extremely low, it is important people know what their legal rights are to ensure they remain on the correct side of the law.  Less than half (45 per cent) of Brits understand there is a legal definition of reasonable force, meaning millions of people don’t know how assertive they can be when protecting themselves or other occupants if they encounter an intruder in their home.

When asked, more than one in eight (13 per cent) said they didn’t think there are any laws addressing their right to protect themselves or their family against an intruder. This is despite the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) being very specific in their guidance regarding the use of force against intruders.  While highlighting that wherever possible, householders should call the police, the CPS state “anyone can use reasonable force to protect themselves or others, or to carry out an arrest or to prevent crime”. However, the level of force used must always be reasonable in the circumstances the householder believes them to be.

Some five per cent, one in twenty, Brits mistakenly believe they are legally allowed to set traps in their home to harm potential intruders.  While booby traps were made famous in the movie Home Alone, if a householder’s trap was to harm a burglar or intruder they could be prosecuted for acting with very excessive and gratuitous force.

Awareness amongst burglars of the laws increasing householders’ rights, which came into force in 2013, to protect their property is mixed. Around half (46 per cent) of burglars know of occupants’ increased rights to protect property, however, two thirds (66 per cent) said this change had made little difference to the way they approached burglary as they were very careful not to meet their victims in any case. A fifth of burglars (19 per cent) said that the change in the law had made them undergo additional occupancy checks to ensure they didn’t meet the householder and risk confrontation.  

Martin Scott, head of Churchill home insurance said: “Most burglars target properties they believe to be unoccupied, meaning encounters are rare. If someone thinks there is a burglar in their home or trying to break in, their first course of action should always be to contact the police if it is safe to do so and to avoid confrontation.  If householders are forced into a confrontation with an intruder, they are legally permitted to protect themselves as a last resort.”

The research also shows the lengths burglars will go to try and avoid detection. Two fifths (39 per cent) of burglars wear cheap trainers when committing crimes, disposing of them after their thefts, to avoid leaving traceable marks at the scene.  Over three quarters (77 per cent) of these criminals wear gloves, or even socks, on their hands to avoid leaving finger prints.  One in five (20 per cent) burglars uses a hat to cover their hair to disguise themselves when committing a crime.  

However, despite shows such as CSI highlighting the use of scientific markers to track criminals, burglars appear largely unconcerned about leaving DNA at a crime scene.  Only 14 per cent of burglars interviewed reported higher levels of care or awareness regarding leaving DNA evidence at the scene of a crime, such as not leaving cigarette butts, wiping away any sweat, or wearing latex gloves under normal gloves.

Martin Scott continued: “Burglars will usually target properties which look unoccupied and provide an easy entry and exit point, so that they can get away undetected. The chances of meeting a burglar are very slim but we urge householders to follow some simple steps to make burglars avoid their home. Making the property look occupied, having locks on doors and windows, remembering to lock all access points including garages and sheds and removing valuables from sight are all basic measures to help prevent burglary.”  
Recognising that burglary can be an extremely traumatic event and leave people feeling like they and their home are vulnerable, Churchill Home Insurance is highlighting its 24/7 burglary response offering. The service means, day or night, Churchill’s burglary response team is available to make the property safe after it has been broken into.

Following a break in, Churchill will send an engineer to replace all damaged locks with a British standard lock and temporarily secure damaged windows and doors.

Related articles
More from Household
Latest from Financial Reporter
Latest from Commercial Reporter