Defence of your dwelling law not black and white

“We are sick of it“, said rural farmers on last week’s Late Late Show.

Various individuals who have been subjected to burglaries over the past two years said they have had more than enough.

Stories were told on the show of how some farmers have been robbed over and over again.

Another recounted how a woman slept with a shotgun in the bed with her.

A one-armed farmer said he had specialised equipment stolen from him that cost him thousands.

Did you know one in three farmers have been burgled?

Did you know that one in four farmers have been broken into in the past four years?

Farmers’ livelihoods, safety and mental wellbeing are being threatened, and the fear amongst them cannot be over-exaggerated.

Some farmers have been robbed over and over again, and are receiving little or no support.

The thieves are not caught.

Many in rural Ireland believe that the thieves are locals and known to them.

This is a escalating countrywide problem.

Fear is stalking rural Ireland.

Imagine the feeling. Being afraid in your own home. It must consume a person.

One woman reported that since she arrived home from grocery shopping to find her house ransacked, she is always wary when she drives in her driveway.

There must be no peace of mind.

What can a farmer do to protect himself?

In law, there are many issues that are not black and white.

There is no wrong and no right, and what is fair in my opinion and what is fair in your opinion may be very different.

What happens if there is an instance of burglary, and the owner of the dwelling is on the premises?

Article 40.5 of the Constitution states, “The dwelling of every citizen is inviolable, and shall not be forcibly entered except in accordance with law”.

We have a fundamental right to keep the public out of our dwellings.

But just how far can we go to protect our home?

The Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Act 2011 is predominantly the act that we consider in this area of law.

The act allows a person to use reasonable force when defending their dwelling from an intruder.

The word ‘reasonable’ lends itself to ambiguity.

What is reasonable and justified to one person may be wildly inappropriate to another.

This ‘reasonable person’ test is judged on what force a reasonable person would objectively use.

However, the threat of the situation is a subjective test.

Who is this reasonable person? How do we characterise a reasonable man?

It is also arguable that many men and woman, for whatever reason, may not fit under that term.

The problems of human error, mistake, and personal character come into play.

Let’s say for argument, I am an extremely nervous, panicked person, and I react as seems reasonable to me, whereas if I am a calm and collected individual, I would assess the situation entirely differently.

If I perceived the criminal in my home to have a knife, yet it was a product of panic and paranoia, and I grab a knife and stab the intruder, that is, putting it bluntly, possibly allowed, or legally acceptable.

This issue was brought into the public eye in a huge way where a Co Mayo farmer Pádraig Nally, shot and killed John Ward.

In the Central Criminal Court, Mr Nally was found guilty of manslaughter, however on appeal to the Supreme Court, the conviction was quashed, and Mr Nally was acquitted.

There was huge support for this decision. Mr Nally walked from court a free man. No further consequences for his actions.

Mr Nally commented that not only had his possessions been stolen, but also his peace of mind.

Mr Ward lost a lot more than his peace of mind. He lost his life.

As we can see, the law seems to be flawed with uncertainty, and each case is very dependent on individual circumstances.

With robberies and crime on the increase in rural Ireland, and not much hope in sight, I hate to think it, not to mind raise it, but is it just a matter of time before there is a new Mr Nally plastered all over the media?


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