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Using Barbed Wire, Glass and Other Intruder Prevention Methods

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 7 Aug 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Barbed Wire intruder burgled burglars

It may seem that the best way to avoid being burgled is to make sure that burglars cannot get anywhere near the property - especially for people living in semi-detached and detached houses. Placing barbed wire, broken glass, nails or carpet gripper on the wall surrounding the property may seem like the ideal solution. This may not be inherently illegal but there are restrictions on what householders can do - careful consideration should be given to the legal position before any of these deterrent methods are used.

Occupier’s Duty of Care to Trespassers

Anyone who owns, or controls, property has a legal duty of care to protect people on the property from foreseeable harm. This duty extends to people on the property without permission – including burglars and vandals. A householder could be sued for damages under the Occupier’s Liability Act 1984 if a burglar is injured whilst on their property. The test will be whether the householder could have predicted that a trespasser was likely to be injured. If broken glass has deliberately been placed at a likely entry-point, any subsequent injury suffered will have been entirely foreseeable.

Discharging the Duty

A householder may be able to discharge this duty by warning trespassers of the hazard or by discouraging them from coming onto the property. This could be done by putting up a sign that warns of the danger: “Attention – Razor Wire on Wall!” and invites trespassers not to risk hurting themselves: “Keep Out!”. If a householder was sued, the court would consider all the circumstances of the case before deciding whether the householder was, in fact, liable for damages.

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 provides some protection to householders. If a trespasser suffers an injury during the course of a crime, for which he is subsequently convicted and for which he could be sent to prison, he will only be able to sue the householder if he gets the court’s permission to do so. The court is unlikely to grant permission unless the householder had taken grossly excessive steps or had not been acting to defend himself, his family or his property from an offence.

Other Legal Restrictions

Section 164 of the Highways Act 1980 says that barbed wire on land adjoining a public highway must not cause a nuisance to humans or animals using the highway. Anything placed below 2.4 metres high will usually be deemed to be causing a nuisance and the local authority can issue a notice demanding its removal.

The Highways Act does not mention the use of nails or broken glass. However, these methods could injure innocent members of the public in the vicinity: a piece of glass could fall and injure someone walking past; or, someone could fall onto a low wall.

Police Advice

The police advise against the use of such methods of intruder prevention due to the risk of legal action if someone is injured. Of course, it is not only intruders and trespassers who risk being injured by barbed wire or broken glass. Householders owe a much greater duty of care to anyone on the property with permission including guests and people who have implied permission, such as the postman. Consider the danger posed to any children who may be visiting the property. If a child was injured after climbing on a wall in which broken glass is embedded, the householder is very likely to have breached their duty of care.

If in doubt about the use of any intruder deterrent method, householders should seek the advice of their local crime prevention or crime reduction police officer.

Other Objections

Local councils sometimes object to householders placing barbed wire on their properties and may insist that it is removed. Even if the householder has complied with the legal restrictions, the council may be concerned about their own legal position if someone is injured. Neighbours may object to obvious deterrent methods such as barbed wire because they look unattractive or because they may give the impression that a neighbourhood is more dangerous than it is.

If householders do use barbed wire they should check that their household insurance will cover them for any injuries caused by it.

Alternative Methods

A solid brick wall with trellis fencing attached to the top should be enough to keep most intruders out. The trellis should not be strong enough to support the weight of a human intruder and is far more attractive than barbed wire. Even more attractive are prickly bushes such as rose and hawthorne. Either of these methods will make a householder much less likely to fall foul of the law – or the neighbours.

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[Add a Comment]
So sick and tired of it. Me and my husband work hard for everything we have and we have 4 children to provide for. So more expenses like thieves taking things that don't belong to them is a cost we can't afford. What is this Country telling the children of today, I'll tell you take anything you want and if you get injured doing so, make even more money from the person you have already distressed enough and sue causing more upset. It's disgusting and we can't even protect ourselves and our home/belongings.
Em - 7-Aug-17 @ 12:39 AM
Come onto my property uninvited and you will leave in pain
Baz - 22-Apr-17 @ 6:16 PM
During the last ten years I have had.my garden burgled six times with 69 birds chickens and cages stolen. The police have done nothing! At times I have been lectured on the thieves human rights and been told not to put up barbed wire and plant prickly bushes and wait five years for them to grow. There is now no proper inforcement whatsoever. This country is finished!
Edwards - 13-Mar-17 @ 10:16 AM
Burglars / Vandals and other wastes of space. We the law abiding citizens who work, pay taxes and try and live a life that respects others are fed up to the back teeth of feeling threatened and now un-protected from our so called Police force whose powers are nothing more than a puppets to the Do Gooders society has created. Enough is enough irrespective of consequences you enter my property , hurt my family vandalise my property etc. etc. Then I don't give a damn what the law does to me, you will pay, Watch Law Abiding Citizen and take note, some of us have now had enough !!
JJ - 22-Feb-17 @ 11:32 AM
Its a pity the law is not clear in making all this stuff illegal: barbed wire, razor wire, broken glass, all of it. Neighbours of mine covered our dividing fence with barbed wire years ago; it is now rusty and intertwined in the ivy. Aimals and children harm themselves on it, as would a potential burglar. It is no deterrent at all robbery – it can't be seen, and even if it could, it would not put off a skilled thief. It is a just a public nuisance. All this tripe about people protecting themselves from burglars is just the Daily Mail hate agenda.
juliettex - 5-Nov-16 @ 6:31 PM
My property backs on to a council feild. I have built a gym in the back garden witch is up against the field, it's separated by a hedge witch is full of holes. Kids and druggies are always in these gaps doing what ever they want to do! I'm not the smallest of people but with a little bit of effort you can be in my garden with ease. Iv spent a lot of time and effort to get the things I want and protecting my wife and 6 weeks old baby is priority. I don't see what is wrong with me putting barbed wire and signs stating that up. Why penalise someone who is protecting their property that they have worked for?
Fezzy - 29-Oct-16 @ 12:59 AM
I wondered if you could please advise that if you have razor wire around a construction site that is on the public highway, how far apart must warning signs be placed to be deemed suitable as trying to warn the public of this danger? Does anyone know the law on tis.
tink - 23-Sep-16 @ 9:57 AM
this law is great for burglars. In fact burglars can now specialise in attempting to get hurt by barbed wire installed at properties so they can demand payment from home owner via the court. If i were to talk to my neighbour's kids, i will tell them not to bother studying hard to later be a homeowner because the law does not protect the hardworkers. Instead their kids should be a numskull of society to burglar homes with barbed wire, so they can get themselves hurt deliberately to get paid. Choosing between a career of a construction worked who risks his life working at height versus being a burglar who gets "rewarded" for getting injured whilst attempting to burglar a home.....i think the choice is quite clear....... there goes the next generation of kids.....i wonder what the future of our country (UK) would hold.
Downhill Law - 2-Aug-16 @ 5:06 PM
Don't be offended when I say stop moaning about the silly stupid laws in force in the UK. .mostlying imposed by the European Court get off your backsides and find time effort to get your concerns over to your local m pkeep giving them earhace day after day thieves and vandals should be fully punished. .your mates won't be able to make a difference. But your m p surely can. Or let them no they won't get your vote. Remember. They need you more than you need them. Good luck
Eduardo - 12-Jul-16 @ 12:27 AM
I like the idea put forward by someone that the intruder should do his own risk assessment before he enters what is in effect his workplace. (Companies are regularly fined for not doing risk assessments on the simplest of tasks when a worker gets injured). He would then draw the conclusion that there is a high probability that he could get injured and he would wear protective clothing like strong leather gloves, a face mask or goggles, steel capped safety boots, wire mesh lined and padded trousers, a jock strap, shin guards, stab proof and bullet proof vest, knee cap protectors, a high visibility jacket, wear a miners cap lamp, Have a rope tied around his waste so that he would not get lost and could be dragged out of a hole if he fell in one, ear defenders, carry a fire extinguisher just in case, carry a first aid box and a white safety helmet to round off his protection against foreseeable hazards, which he should have foreseen himself. If I was the judge and found that he had missed out any of these protective measures I would rule that whilst the hazards were in fact foreseeable, he should have foreseen them himself, therefore the injuries were self inflicted and I would fine him for wasting the courts time.
Whitevanman - 11-May-16 @ 6:29 PM
It's maddening how the law protects burglars! I could be prosecuted if one injures themselves on any deterrents I put up to prevent a theft on my property. They shouldn't be there in the first place! Bloody stupid that if they can't get cash from stealing my property, they can get cash from a civil action because they cut themselves on the razor wire on my fence. Where's the deterrent in that? Change the law!!!
Del - 1-May-16 @ 2:52 AM
The law should be changed to state that anyone guilty of trespassing cannot make any kind of claim against someone protecting their property within the confines of their boundary. It is fundamentally wrong to allow someone committing an offence to be able to claim against someone innocently protecting their hard earned property against the thieving scum present in our society. It should be the case that, anyone entering a property without invite or implied invite (eg postman/milkman/police and the ilk), i.e. committing trespass, should be aware, under law, that they risk getting injured/killed without redress because it will be the only way of allowing such natural selection to deter & hopefully remove the thieving, waste of space scum who serve no useful purpose in society except to cause stress and distress to the law abiding, hard working people.....namby-pamby society?.....oh yes, most definitely......protect the scum at the expense of the hard working tax payers........
Madbiker - 22-Mar-16 @ 12:42 AM
I have been burgled they left total devastion in my property. My wife was on her knees screaming at the devastation beforeus. The people who carry out these crimes are the scum of the earth. I nowhave measures in place for any further intrusion. I actuallywatch my property from a distance in my van in the dark nowhopingto see someone trying to get in. The message is simple ,surprise rules .Kill or be killed. Im willing to forfeit my liberty or be killed if i catch a burgler.
vigilante - 10-Nov-15 @ 10:56 AM
@Sensi007. You would be liable for any injury caused by the barbed wire. You should investigate alternative deterrents. Planting prickly shrubs on the inside of your fence may help. Pyracantha is particularly thorny but would not do as much damage to an intruder as barbed wire. It's also much more attractive than barbed wire, with white flowers in spring/summer and berries (varying from dark yellow to bright red) in the winter. You can train it to climb or grow it espalier style up a wall.
ProtectingYourself - 2-Jun-15 @ 9:42 AM
im having probs my very long garden with a six foot high wall backs on to a housing estate, last night we had 4 runner ducks nicked from our garden. i now wont to erect a barb wire fence 3 feet ontop of the 6 foot wall would this be aloud as if some one wanted to get into my garden then they would have to climb the wall first with come a cross the barb wire wich would be difficult with this barb wire solutions what do people think please
sensi007 - 29-May-15 @ 9:10 PM
@fatheroftheyear. What would you want/gain from legal action? Did he have permission to get the ball? Was he being supervised? What did he cut himself on? Has it affected his future life prospects (is he a promising violinist for example?) These are all things that you need to consider along with whether your neighbour has deliberately put something in place to harm visitors/intruders or whether it was simply an unfortunate accident.
ProtectingYourself - 23-Apr-15 @ 12:29 PM
My son went over a fence to get his ball and cut his hand open and needed 4 stitches can I take legal action
Fatheroftheyear - 20-Apr-15 @ 9:43 PM
could I suggest that all burglars, and neighbours with children they cannot control, fill in a risk assessment form before climbing over my wall to retrieve naughty, only child's ball. Spoilt children who, most parents believe they walk on water, believe it is ok to use my garden. My plants are destroyed. The neighbours shout at me for not returning their childs balls, I have carpal tunnel and use of hand is awkward. The neighbour also shouts abuse and tells me he will get the police on me for not returning their balls. So, barbed wire will cause me more agro....bring on prison, I believe they have regulations there. Please enter the real world. Stop protecting bullys and creating monstors.
abusedelderlylady - 23-Feb-15 @ 1:31 PM
As a South African faced with the daily threat of break-ins I have to find UK law laughable in this respect. These are passive measures (different from a triggered shotgun, say) that a *burglar* should reasonably expect to be deployed to prevent his actions. Surely the person that initiates illegal actions is responsible for their consequences? By the way, I have an 8 ft electrified fence, followed by an inner 6 ft weldmesh fence topped with razor wire, burglar bars all round, and I'm a fairly average houseowner. That's what happens when the laws favour the criminally inclined ... everybody gets to live in a prison.
Bruno - 8-Feb-15 @ 7:30 PM
Interesting comments.I have always believed that I would rather have an intruder lying in a pool of blood and be facing a prison sentence than me lying in a pool of blood and an intruder facing a prison sentence.I was pistol shooter before Dunblane and always kept a 9mm Walther P38 next to me at night.My wife and I now have a crossbow ready plus one or two other effective weapons. If we were threatened by an intruder, and I say threatened, we would respond.As a minimum get a pistol crossbow fitted with a red dot sight, very effective at 3 metres or so. Look at that couple in Edinburgh where the wife was killed and the husband injured by an intruder trying to get the car keys, if they had been armed the result would probably have been different.
Robbie of Scotland - 13-Jan-15 @ 9:00 PM
@Elinor. The barbed wire may cause a bit of controversy although if it's not actually on your property's boundary fence it might not be an issue. If you're worried about the potential harm to cats (or more likely someone taking legal action against you for injuring their cat!) Then you could try cat deterrent spikes- a roll of plastic spikes that are uncomfortable rather than harmful which are placed on the top of the fence.
ProtectingYourself - 13-Jan-15 @ 10:06 AM
I just want to protect valuable plants from cats. I have in mind a fence around veg garden all on the council property I reside in, not touching anyone else's, and at a height to discourage cats, with a row of barbed wire across top. Is this possible. We have tried many other deterrents, but they still dig up the vegetables.
Elinor - 10-Jan-15 @ 4:18 PM
What a namby-Pamby country the U.K. has become! So, to protect my property, I must tell the nasty burglar what methods I have employed to thwart him eh? Yeah, right! I like surprises - whether Burglar-Bill will is another matter. I reckon time will tell.......LOL
Castle Dweller - 2-Dec-14 @ 4:58 PM
@Oliver. As the landlord you would be better to remove the barbed wire, it's not advisable to have this on a front gate.
ProtectingYourself - 19-Nov-14 @ 2:45 PM
Good morning, our tenant and her neighbour have installed barbed wire together over their front gates.We were not advised and have just become aware of it.My husband is not happy as they have drilled into the wall of our property.(Which they will have to repair when they leave). Please can you advise who bears the liability in case of any injuries caused by the barbed wire?
Oliver - 19-Nov-14 @ 10:25 AM
Q. What is the legal position in Scotland? If you don't know, then where can I find out?
bluesman - 11-Aug-14 @ 5:26 PM
When reasearching this subject I can find only theoretical comments on theoretical situations.Can someone tell me if a burglar (or other trespasser) has actually completed a successful action under the Occupiers Liability Act 1984?And if so, if it was possible, for example, to introduce into evidence the fact that the claimant had a criminal record. I have read about local councils sending letters to householders about anti-burglar measures but I have never seen the wording of such a letter.What is the legal basis on which the council would issue court proceedings if the householder refused to remove the offending measure?Has any such householder actually been ordered by a court to remove the offending measure and what other penalty was imposed by the court? It seems to me that whoever takes action against the householder would have to face the question as to what is reasonable.Clearly mantraps and other potentially lethal devices should not be allowed but at the more reasonable end the position appears far from clear.
Moreinfoplease - 24-Apr-14 @ 10:14 PM
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