Shooting an intruder in the UK

Inspired by this thread I remembered a (drunken) discussion with some friends at the pub. We were arguing for and against shooting someone who had entered your house.

It eventually came down to this senario: Bob lives in a house, he lives alone and wants to protect his belongings, he has a hand written sign on his gate which says “Do not enter - private property- tresspassers will be shot”, yeah I know its a strange sign but Bob is really concerned. Now Bob is a farmer and has a licenced shot gun.

One day Mad Max feels the need for a new TV, a Laptop and a new car. Bob has all these things so Mad Max ignores these signs and enters Bobs house(carrying a gun), Bob is upstairs, while Max picks up the TV and the laptop, Bob hears him and comes rushing down stairs with his shot gun. Being pretty protective Bob also has security cameras in every room with sound. Bob then says to max, “put down my stuff now or I will shoot you in the leg”. Max does not put down anything but doesnot leave and even takes aim with his gun. Now Bob says “you have 3 seconds to leave my stuff and get out of the house before I shoot” Max does not leave, so Bob keeps his promise and shoots Max in his Legs (from across the hall).

Now this is where we could not decided what the law was. In the UK is Bob breaking any laws ? He warned Mad Max 3 times (once the gate, and twice in the house) Max was told he would be shot for tresspassing, is it legal to make up your own rules and carry them out like this ?

Never mind the rest of this highly-contrived scenario, but at this point, the issue changes from protecting property to self defense. ‘Mad Max’ has just threatened Bob the Homeowner with a deadly weapon in the process of committing a burglery. Bob may open fire.

I can only speak from a US standpoint.

First of all, the “trespassers will be shot” sign is not at all unheard of - I’ve seen dozens if not hundreds of them here (but it depends largely on geographic area).

Second, in most cases, unless you want to face murder or manslaughter charges, you must feel that your life, or the life of another is in danger (or you face great bodily harm) in order to use deadly force to defend yourself. Simply protecting your belongings is NOT (in most jurisdictions) enough to warrant the use of deadly force.

In most states, the situation you describe could quite easily be turned into a premeditated murder charge for “Bob”.

Until the robber raises his gun. Then the lead can fly.

Premeditated murder? Unlikely. Aggrevated assault, or attempted voluntary manslaughter? Quite possibly.

I’m not conversant with self-defense laws in the UK other than that the use of firearms for defense is highly restricted and not necessarily protected even when one is legitimately threatened. Personally, if I were Bob, I’d set my faithful Alsatian upon him, and then point to the “Beware of Dog” sign prominently posted at the entrance at any inquiries regarding liability. “Sorry about that, old chap,” says Bob, “but you weren’t going to be needing that hand anyway, were you? It’s just, you see, it’s become Winston’s favorite toy and he’d be hard up to part with it.”



I’m pretty sure the Alsatian’s name would be Reginald.

Here’s a fact sheet from the Crown Prosecution Service regarding using violent force against intruders that might help:

That seems a perfectly stright-forward and reasonable document.

Farmers can only use their shotguns to shoot vermin (intruders are not classified as vermin).
Putting up a sign that you will shoot people will get you an unfriendly visit from the police.
Rushing downstairs with a loaded shotgun is pretty silly - call the police and say an armed intruder has entered your house.
Shooting people who are stealing your stuff is not legal in the UK.
Making up your own rules and shooting people as part of them is not legal.

P.S. Why doesn’t Max shoot Bob in the 3 seconds?

This was specified in the OP:

Was there not a high profile case related to this in the UK in recent years?

You probably mean the Tony Martin case:

Tony Martin was the “laying a trap and not involving the police” and “shooting the intruders while they are fleeing” . He expected to be broken into, but set booby traps rather than involve the police, then shot the intruders while they were running away. Oh, and didn’t inform the police he had injured someone and killed someone else.
Thus, not “reasonable” force.

He served 3 years in prison for manslaughter with diminished responsibility (Paranoid Personality Disorder).

This is what I’ve been looking for, and its even written in plain English. Thanks.

This is what im asking, can you find a cite ? The document above does not cover making rules, only how to act with reasonable force when faced with this situation.

Because He can’t watch his new stolen TV if he gets locked up.

Note that in the UK not only can you not shoot someone merely for trespass, but the sign “Trespassers will be Prosecuted” is also untrue; in general, trespass is not a criminal offence. Historically you had to take someone to civil court for damages. There is now however an offence known as Aggravated Trespass for which you can indeed be prosecuted.

And (as Elendil’s Heir’s link states) the shotgun was illegal.

Maybe I simply misunderstand you. You can’t make up ‘rules’ and act on them - the law is made by Parliament and interpreted by judges.
Do you mean ‘what exactly is the law about shooting home intruders in the UK?’

Nice to see it’s not just me that thought this. (I didn’t say anything because I thought it was just me).

Three points:

  1. Putting up the sign would definitely be a negative factor against Bob as it shows premeditation to use deadly force rather than acting in the heat of the moment;
  2. Bob should not have given the second warning - as soon as the gun is raised Bob has good reason to beleive his life is in danger and is entitled to use sufficient force - that is to fire - to save himself;
  3. Bob should not have fired at Max’s legs. First Max might have still pulled the trigger and shot him and, second, if he has time to make the concious decision to aim low it suggest he did not really fear for his life!

I can see that I wasn’t very clear. The discussion that led to me writing the OP was based around "Would Bob be let off in court ? as he could prove he had his own rules for entering his land and had audio & video which showed he gave Max the chance to leave without being shot. Max broke these rules and was shot.
Obviously parliament did not write up Bob’s rules, so is Bob automatically to be punished ?

Pretty much. Generally speaking, you can’t just break the law if someone does something you don’t like, even if you warned them that you would. Two wrongs not making a right, and all that.