Last week a 78-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder after a suspected burglar was stabbed to death. The man, Richard Osborn-Brooks, discovered two intruders in his home South-East London in the early hours of the morning. One of the intruders was armed with a screwdriver and forced Mr Osborn Brooks into his kitchen where a struggle ensued and the intruder was stabbed. He was taken to hospital but was pronounced dead several hours later. The police, faced with a dead body and a man admitting to stabbing him, not surprisingly arrested Mr Osborn-Brooks on suspicion of murder.
This provoked a furious backlash in the tabloid press and some sections of the public. The Sun declared Mr Osborn-Brooks to be a hero and a GoFundMe page raising thousands of pounds for his legal defence was set up, one excited supporter on Facebook even declared that Mr Osborn-Brooks “deserves a medal” for his actions.
Within 48 hours, the police investigated the circumstances of the death and released a statement saying that Mr Osborn-Brooks would face no charges. You would think the tabloids would be happy with this turn of events as the police seemingly agreed with them that, given the circumstances of having his home invaded and being physically attacked, Mr Osborn-Brooks response was justified even if that caused the death of the intruder. However the tabloid press fury was undiminished declaring that Mr Osborn-Brooks should never have been arrested in the first place.
This was a tragic event, the elderly man and his wife suffered the trauma of having their home invaded and now he has to live with the guilt of having taken a life. We may not feel much sympathy for a man who sought to terrorise two pensioners but there will be a family mourning him.
The right wing press love to write stories about how the legal system and the courts are bias towards the criminal as part of their endless quest to terrify people, and by dropping the charges in this case the police undermined that narrative.
The legal position in these situations is that you can use reasonable force to protect yourself. As a general rule, the more extreme the circumstances and the fear felt, the more force you can lawfully use in self-defence. You are given greater protection under the law if force is used to protect yourself or others when dealing with a burglar. England’s Crown Prosecution Service says if you act in reasonable self-defence and the intruder dies you will still have acted lawfully. What is it that the right wing press find objectionable in that position? Do we really want to give free pass to someone who tortures an alleged burglar to death?
A crime was committed, a man lost his life, the police looked into the circumstances and found this elderly man was justified in using deadly force to protect himself. For once the system worked – don’t let the right wing press tell you otherwise.