Licence to kill? Murder and self-defence

Jonathan Burnside - Colour

Licence to Kill - Burnside - Download PDF (0.1Mb)

Cambridge Papers

Where should we draw the line between murder and the use of force in self-defence?

"The Tony Martin case, in which an English farmer was convicted of murder for killing a nocturnal burglar, sparked a national, on-going debate about the extent to which householders may use force in self-defence. Exodus 22:2–3,which permits a householder to kill a burglar who breaks in at night, was favourably cited in the national press. This paper asks whether the householder should have a licence to kill the nocturnal burglar, and argues that one purpose of Exodus 22:2–3 is to provide a conclusive, objective test of when a householder may kill without incurring the vengeance of the 'avenger of blood'. In spite of its specific social and legal context, Exodus 22:2–3 highlights several important principles which should inform law-making in this area today."

Author: Jonathan Burnside (2002)

Reproduced with kind permission from the Cambridge Papers

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