Crimestopper Updates - restoring the right of self-defence

The Truth About the Franks Self Defence Reform Bill

You've probably heard about the Bill I've drafted, but with vital details distorted. The Minister of Justice has tried to paint it as "Americanisation" and the Minister of Agriculture claims it is "a licence to shoot trespassers".


You deserve to know why the truth - what's wrong with the current law, and what the Bill will change.


Why change the law?

People don't know in advance what they are allowed to do against potentially vicious intruders. The law is too complicated to remember under threat.


The police advice to leave all defence to them is practical and legal nonsense. In most rural communities the Police can never get there in time. Nor do the cases support the police claims. In more than eight out of ten cases juries acquit people charged for defending themselves against intruders.


It could cost you between $50,000 and $500,000 in legal costs to find out for sure what you were supposed to have done. Even successful defenders are never compensated. Some are driven to bankruptcy. Others are advised to leave the district after winning.


Passing my Bill would tell criminals that the community - (through parliament) does not want people to feel helpless in their homes.


The Bill will realign the law with people's common sense assumptions about their right to defend themselves and their property.


What is technically wrong with the law

    It draws fine distinctions according to:
    • Whether the intruder has entered the house
    • Is merely lurking by the back door
    • Whether it is a home, or a garage
    • Whether he is taking property, or merely vandalising it.
  • Defenders may use only "proportionate" force "necessary" or "reasonable" to avoid harm to themselves. The court has the safety of hindsight, though it must try to stand in the defender's shoes.
  • Outside their homes defenders may not "strike or do bodily harm to the [trespasser]" unless he or she is attacking them.
  • A defender may only use "reasonable" force to remove a wilful trespasser who neglects or refuses to leave yet somehow such force cannot involve striking or threatening to strike or harm.)
  • In defending a dwellinghouse the defender is justified only in using "necessary" force. The difference from "reasonable" force is obscure.
As a result offenders are meant to calibrate their actions to the intruders initiatives, based on law no one knows.


Intruders rightly know that trespass is a low risk. No possible increase in police numbers can assure everyone of on time help. So occupiers are supposed to run if they can.


What does the Bill do

It rebalances the law back to the orientation it had 25 years ago, against aggressors. It will reinstate the effect of the defence of provocation dropped from the law in 1980. Until then it was lawful to strike or harm an intruder if they had ignored warnings, and persisted in a theft or trespass. Your force still had to be reasonable.


The amendments in my Bill will restore the "warning then permission to strike" concept.


My Bill tells the courts that it is reasonable to threaten to use unreasonable force, because that is the best way to persuade the intruder to run.


Where prompt police assistance is not likely the defender will not be obliged to run or hide.


Defenders can act to stop the unlawful behaviour despite the prohibition in other circumstances on striking or harming the intruder. This does not permit unreasonable violence. It does not excuse, for example, shooting offenders who are running away empty handed. It is not a "make my day" bill. It does not justify vigilante attacks to punish trespassers.


The law will also stop the police from seeking firearms convictions as a consolation prize when they have failed to get a conviction on the main charges against a justified defender.


What You can do

  • Write letters to the newspapers ring up talk back, take the trouble to write or ring your MP.
  • Ask Federated Farmers and other rural based organisations to press for Parliamentary action on the Franks amendment.
  • Vote - It is powerful.
  • Lobby other political parties. With enough pressure self-defence can be turned into an election issue. Parties are working on their manifestos now. Please - press for concrete promises - now.
  • Forward this email to people you know so they are not misled by the apologists for the current law.
  • Look at our web site where you can see the text of my Bill -
  • Complete our online survey on the ACT Web site at
  • Arm yourself with the arguments because this Bill will be controversial. People will wrongly claim it is a licence to arm vigilantes. It is not.

We have to restore safety and security as normal expectations everywhere.

This Bill will go a long way towards doing that.

Stephen Franks M.P.
ACT Party Justice spokesman

PS. See my site at for further material.