Yesterday, the charges against Omari Roberts, the man who stabbed two teenagers who were burglarising his mother’s home, have finally been dropped.
The charges were dropped not because the Crown had taken a second look at the case and decided that Omari had in fact acted lawfully; no, they were dropped because their entire case hinged on the lies of a teenaged burglar.
According to reports on the BBC news site and others, the second burglar changed his testimony by telling social workers three things that differed from his original statement:
- He was, in fact, carrying a knife at the time of the burglary. He originally said he wasn’t carrying a weapon.
- He “would have killed” Omari if he had the chance
- Omari did not chase him down the street as he had originally stated.
However, if you read the CPS’s own definition of “reasonable force”, Omari should not have been charged with murder, even if this boy’s original statement was in fact true.
According to the CPS’s joint public statement on reasonable force:
“Anyone can use reasonable force to protect themselves or others, or to carry out an arrest or to prevent crime. You are not expected to make fine judgements over the level of force you use in the heat of the moment. So long as you only do what you honestly and instinctively believe is necessary in the heat of the moment, that would be the strongest evidence of you acting lawfully and in self-defence. This is still the case if you use something to hand as a weapon.
[You do] not [have to wait to be attacked] if you are in your own home and in fear for yourself or others. In those circumstances the law does not require you to wait to be attacked before using defensive force yourself.
If you have acted in reasonable self-defence, as described above, and the intruder dies you will still have acted lawfully.”
So even if the boy was telling the truth, and he wasn’t carrying a knife, Omari could still lawfully use a weapon to defend his mother’s home. But what if he had chased the boy out of the home?
“[Chasing a burglar] is different as you are no longer acting in self-defence and so the same degree of force may not be reasonable. However, you are still allowed to use reasonable force to recover your property and make a citizen’s arrest. You should consider your own safety and, for example, whether the police have been called. A rugby tackle or a single blow would probably be reasonable. Acting out of malice and revenge with the intent of inflicting punishment through injury or death would not.”
This is the bit the CPS used to bring a charge of murder on Omari. The boy’s original statement said that Omari chased him down the street; The Crown’s argument is that the time spent chasing the boy could’ve been used to call the police. But hang on, the boy he allegedly chased and attacked lived. The boy Omari killed never left the house, so how can the chasing of the second boy result in a murder charge? If the chasing of the second boy is the part the CPS used to bring charges, then surely the only charge that could be laid is GBH, is it not?
But this is not the biggest problem with this case. The biggest problem is that the prosecution’s entire argument revolved around a teenaged burglar’s testimony; a teenaged burglar with an Asbo and a number of previous convictions. Why is a burglar’s testimony given more consideration by the prosecution than the victim’s statement? With whom does the burden of proof lie?
It’s just another case that illustrates what a grey area “reasonable force” is under UK law. This law needs to be strengthened so when a situation arises where it’s one’s word against another’s, the victim’s statement is considered to be at least on par with the attacker’s statement. The word of a teenaged delinquent should simply not be enough to bring charges.
Life would be easier if all burglars told the truth and had the good sense to run away when confronted by a homeowner, but it doesn’t work that way. Sometimes the bad guys lie and sometimes they have no intention of leaving without a fight. Sometimes they’re just kids.
However, Burglary is not a petty crime even if it is perpetrated by kids. It’s a very serious crime; one in which split-second decisions are required by the homeowner if he’s going to get out of it alive. Omari Roberts made remarkable split-second decisions. He protected his home and his family by attacking two burglars, he ignored the urge to chase a burglar down the street and he even had the mental wherewithal to refrain from stabbing the boys in obviously lethal areas. He stabbed the boy twice in the knee and Juett once in the shoulder; if he really wanted to kill them, he could’ve gone for their necks or chests. Then, once both boys were incapacitated, he stopped attacking them and called the police. In short, he did absolutely nothing wrong.
The death of Tyler Juett is an unfortunate and a very sad thing, but if Omari Roberts had received a life sentence for murder, that would’ve been the real tragedy in this case. Frankly, it should never have seen the inside of a courtroom.
The CPS now need to step up and do the honourable thing. They need to compensate Omari for his court costs, apologise to him and his family for all the hurt and distress they’ve caused and above all, change the law so another innocent man does not get charged with murder for simply defending himself and his home.