A lesson about what is not accepted as reasonable force even when defending your family
A father who stabbed to death a burglar he found in his family's home was today jailed for five years.
Barry-Lee Hastings, 25, stabbed Roger Williams, 35, a total of 12 times after mistaking a jemmy in his hand for a machete. But Old Bailey Judge Brian Barker told Hastings that he had gone too far and his actions were not justified.
Hastings, of Wood Green, north London, was found guilty of manslaughter last month and remanded for reports. His family shouted "This country stinks" as he was led away and said later they would appeal. They were backed by supporters of farmer Tony Martin who was jailed for shooting dead a burglar.
Judge Barker told Hastings he had repeatedly stabbed Mr Williams in the back, the majority of the attack taking place outside the house when the possibility of danger was over.
He said: "What you did could not possibly have been done while you were still under threat. You had gone into the attack and you were engaged in retaliation. Although Roger Williams was a burglar and had no right to be there, a householder is not entitled to use more than reasonable force to defend himself. His presence did not justify the actions you took."
The judge added: "No one can fail to have sympathy for a householder or visitor who without warning found himself in the position you did when you reached the front door."
The jury took more than 12 hours to convict Hastings of manslaughter on a 10-2 majority, but cleared him of murder.
Mr Williams, of Tottenham, north London, died in January after being stabbed 12 times in the back.
Hastings, a gas engineer, told the court he acted to protect his family when he found Mr Williams in the house in Lordsmead Road, Tottenham, north London.
The court heard that Mr Williams, who had many previous convictions for burglary and was on the run from police, targeted the property where Hastings's estranged wife Nicola and their two children lived.
Mrs Hastings and the children, both aged under four, were not at home but Hastings did not know that as he approached and saw a man in an upstairs bedroom.
Hastings told the court he picked up a knife from the kitchen to scare the intruder after finding the front door had been forced. He said Mr Williams came running down the stairs and attacked him with what he took to be a machete and the fight spilled outside.
The court heard how three of the 12 stab wounds were potentially fatal and one had penetrated the heart.
Peter Kyte QC, for the prosecution, said that Hastings "overstepped the mark" when he caught Mr Williams "in mid-crime".
Hastings told the court: "At the time, I believed I was protecting my children. I was going to call the police on my mobile phone but I thought I heard my daughter crying. I thought I heard men's voices. I thought someone had the children up there. I thought something was happening to them. I decided to help my family and scare whoever was there off. I never intended to stab anyone."
Mr Williams's family left court without commenting, but his cousin John Davies said after the last hearing: "Despite Roger's previous background, he was entitled to a fair trial like Mr Hastings."