David Cameron has insisted that burglars are cowards, in response to a judge who reportedly told one thief that his raids took courage.
The Prime Minister, who revealed he had been burgled twice, branded the offence "despicable and hateful".
Judge Peter Bowers, who is going to be investigated by the Office for Judicial Complaints over his comments, sparked the outcry during a case at Teesside Crown Court.
He apparently told an offender who raided three homes in five days: "It takes a huge amount of courage, as far as I can see, for somebody to burgle somebody's house. I wouldn't have the nerve."
Handing the 26-year-old man a suspended 12-month term, the judge said: "I'm going to take a chance on you."
Mr Cameron stressed that he had not seen the details of the case, but said: "I am very clear that burglary is not bravery. Burglary is cowardice.
"Burglary is a hateful crime," he told ITV's Daybreak programme.
"People sometimes say it is not a violent crime, but actually if you have been burgled, you do feel it was violence.
"I am very clear that people who repeatedly burgle should be sent to prison."
The Prime Minister added: "That is why this Government is actually changing the law to toughen the rules on self-defence against burglars, saying householders have the right to defend themselves."
Tory MP Philip Davies also raised the issue in the Commons.
He said: "There has been a great deal of concern about lily-livered judges by many people, not least from me.
"How can we make sure that idiots like this are no longer in the judiciary and that people who are appointed to the judiciary don't reflect the views of this particular individual?"
The Office for Judicial Complaints said it would investigate the judge after being contacted by angry members of the public about his comments.
If complaints are upheld the case will be passed to the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor, who will consider if disciplinary action is needed.
They have the power to advise, warn, reprimand or remove a judge for misconduct.
Judge Bower's comments drew a furious response from David Hines, chairman of the National Victims' Association.
He said: "What message does this send out to society? Quite frankly it is outrageous.
"The criminal justice system has let the victims down. Burglars are going to believe that judges think they are courageous. I think this judge is on a different wavelength to everyone else."
One barrister who works at Teesside Crown Court expressed surprise at Judge Bowers' remarks.
He tweeted: "I am amazed by this, if true, as he is one of the toughest sentencing judges in Teesside."
A spokesman for the Judiciary of England and Wales said Judge Bowers would not be censured for his remarks and judges are independent to make comments while sentencing.
The row came the day after the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to press charges against a couple who used a gun to defend their home from intruders.
Prosecutors decided Andy and Tracey Ferrie had acted in reasonable self-defence by firing a legally-owned shotgun during a break-in at their farm in Welby, Leicestershire.
The arrest of the husband and wife after the shooting at their isolated cottage near Melton Mowbray has reopened the long-running debate about the rights of householders to defend themselves.