Police: “Remove Wire Mesh from Windows-Burglars Could Be Injured”

| by The Volokh Conspiracy

By Eugene Volokh

So reports the Daily Mail (UK):

Residents in Surrey and Kent villages have been ordered by police to remove wire mesh from their windows as burglars could be injured....

Locals had reinforced their windows with wire mesh after a series of shed thefts but were told by community police officers that the wire was ‘dangerous’ and could lead to criminals claiming compensation if they ‘hurt themselves’....

Here’s the extended quote from “[c]rime reduction officer for Tandridge PC John Lee,” followed by another from a “police source”:

We are constantly advising homeowners to protect their property and the contents of their shed or garage, however, a commonsense approach needs to be taken.

To properly secure your sheds, Surrey Police strongly advises people to invest in items such as good-quality locks and bolts, and not to resort to homemade devices, as this could cause injury....

Homemade devices can cause injury and there have been cases where criminals have sued for injuries they have suffered while committing a criminal act.

We are advising people to do whatever they can to protect their property, but wire mesh is not one of the suggestions we would make.

It’s not clear whether indeed the police ordered residents to remove the wire mesh — in the sense of threatening them with arrest or prosecution if they failed to comply — or just advised residents about the possible risk of tort liability. But in any case, something appalling is going on, either in English tort law, or in English police practices, or both.

I recognize that many American jurisdictions limit the use of unattended deadly spring guns to protect property, and my vague sense is that England does as well. But whether those rules are right or wrong, it seems to me that it’s quite wrong for the law to punish (or impose liability for the use of) basically nonlethal and easily visible defensive mechanisms, of a sort that (unlike spring guns) are extremely unlikely to be inadvertently triggered by emergency personnel, relatively innocent trespassers, and the like.