R v Cheeseman

The “householder defence” is concerned with the belief of the defendant as to whether someone is a trespasser, someone can become a trespasser who entered lawfully.

On 4th May 2018, at a court martial, the Appellant was found guilty of wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm but acquitted of attempted murder. The Appellant had stabbed and injured a fellow serviceman in the Appellant's room in single living accommodation provided by the Army. At trial and on his appeal against conviction, the Appellant sought to rely upon the so-called "householder defence", pursuant to s.76 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 (as amended by the Crime and Courts Act 2013). The injured party's initial entry into the Appellant's room had been consensual but ceased to be so when a confrontation occurred.

The learned trial judge had ruled that the householder defence was only available where the injured person was an intruder, rather than where, as in this case, the injured person entered the premises lawfully but thereafter became a trespasser. He had also ruled that there was no evidence that the Appellant had believed that his fellow serviceman was a trespasser.

Lord Burnett of Maldon CJ, giving the judgment of the court, accepted the Appellant's submission concerning the applicability of the householder defence. His Lordship stated that the learned trial judge had interpreted the authorities erroneously and that s.76(8A)(d) "is concerned with the belief of the defendant whether the person concerned was in, or entering, the building or part as a trespasser, not a belief whether the person entered the building as a trespasser." The question, His Lordship asserted, was "whether the defendant believed that the person concerned had no right or business to be in the building, or was there without authority, at the time of the violent incident."

Held: Although the trial judge had erred in ruling that the householder defence did not apply, the conviction was nonetheless safe. The sentencing remarks delivered by the Judge Advocate made it very clear that the Appellant did not genuinely believe that it was necessary to employ the force he used to defend himself.

The appeal was dismissed.


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