IT is often said that very few political careers in Britain survive time spent as Home Secretary and it is beginning to look as though the same wisdom may apply to Shadow Home Secretaries.

Chris Grayling, who currently has this role in the Conservative Shadow Cabinet, has periodic rushes of blood to the head; last week his reaction to news about a man who had been sent to prison for committing “grievous body harm” to a burglar in his home was such that one right wing newspaper suggested he was proposing a “licence to kill burglars”. Not surprisingly wiser counsels have prevailed and yesterday Mr Grayling said: “I am not in any way suggesting that a Conservative government would create a licence to kill”.

There will be general relief at this clarification but in fact the law, revised as recently as last year, already gives the benefit of the doubt to people defending themselves and their homes, provided only that any force they use is not “disproportionate”, and it also recognises that in an emergency those needing to defend themselves “may not be able to weigh to a nicety the exact measure of necessary action”. The decision on whether these provisions are met in a particular case rests with the judge and jury on the basis of the evidence put before them.


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