Ministry of Justice: householders can protect themselves if in fear of death

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Police outside Wilmcote House, Portsmouth

Residents had to be signed in to Portsmouth flat block after police incident

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The Ministry of Justice has reiterated that a householder has the right to defend their family from intruders if they believe their lives are in danger following the death of a burglar during an armed raid.

Henry Vincent, 37, died after being stabbed during a botched raid at the south-east London property of Richard Osborn-Brooks in the early hours of Wednesday.

Mr Osborn-Brooks was arrested on suspicion of murder and released on bail pending further inquiries on Thursday, the Metropolitan Police said.

The arrest of the 78-year-old provoked outcry from neighbours and an online fundraising campaign which gathered hundreds of pounds in several hours.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: ‘While we cannot comment on specific cases, our sympathies are with householders who have to defend themselves when intruders break in.

‘That’s why we strengthened the law in 2013 to give householders greater protection from intruders.

‘Those changes make it clear that if a householder believes their life or the lives of their family are in danger, and they act in self-defence, they would not ordinarily be convicted of an offence.’

Tributes have been paid to Vincent, from Kent, by family and friends on social media, with one reading he will ‘never be forgotten’.

In January, he was named and pictured by Kent Police investigating a distraction burglary when jewellery and valuables were stolen from a man in his 70s.

During the botched raid in Park Crescent, Hither Green, an accomplice dragged Vincent toward a van before leaving him for dead, according to a witness.

He was found collapsed in nearby Further Green Road by paramedics from London Ambulance Service, who took him to hospital where he died shortly before 4am.

The second man has not been found and at least one suspect was believed to be armed with a screwdriver, police said.

Detectives think a struggle took place between one of the burglars and the elderly homeowner before Vincent was stabbed in the upper body, but would not confirm if he was stabbed with the screwdriver.

Adam Lake, who lives near the scene, said he did not feel safe from crime and defended Mr Osborn-Brooks.

He said: ‘He doesn’t deserve to be punished for defending himself, and the neighbours that I’ve spoken to all agree that the priority needs to be to support him after everything that he’s been through.’

Last night residents and councillors held a meeting behind closed doors discussing the aftermath of the attack which has left the community shaken.