LANDOWNERS are at the mercy of intruders due to delays in passing the Defence & Dwelling Bill which was agreed upon last July, says the Irish Farmers Association (IFA).
IFA environment and rural affairs chairman, Pat Farrell, has called on the Government to progress legislation to allow landowners to use justifiable force to protect themselves against intruders.
Pat Farrell said: “The Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Bill 2010 was published by the previous government in July last year. However, it was never enacted. The Minister for Justice Alan Shatter must immediately progress this legislation and strengthen it to allow homeowners to use justifiable force against any intruder without any concern of criminal charges in respect of any injury, loss or damage arising from the use of such force.”
Mr Farrell aired his views following a recent court case in which 68-year-old farmer Cornelius Long was stabbed during a burglary on his farm last July. His attacker was jailed for six years. Mr Long has since recovered from his injuries.
Rural groups have been calling for legislative clarity on self-protection ever since the 2005 court case in which 61-year-old Mayo farmer Padraig Nally was found innocent of the murder of John ‘Frog’ Ward, who died when Mr Nally shot him while he was trespassing on his farm.
Pat Farrell said: “Half of all burglaries take place when someone is actually in the home. Around 5% involve weapons, and around 2% lead to injuries. We want the bill to progress. Its measures would allow for the use of justifiable force. There is a concern among people in rural locations because they don’t know what their rights are in terms of protecting their families, their homes and themselves.”
Last October, in a speech to the Dáil, Alan Shatter welcomed the Government’s Defence and the Dwelling Bill, albeit as a “very belated effort to provide protection to people confronted by attackers in their homes”.
He criticised the Fianna Fáil-Green coalition for having voted down Fine Gael’s previous efforts to pass bills protecting home-owners in 2006 and 2009. At the time Mr Shatter said: “The law [should be] set out clearly in an Act of Parliament so that people know exactly their position if they are confronted with the nightmare of a burglar, or someone who is uninvited intruding into their home and who clearly poses a threat to the person, their family and their property.”
Mr Shatter was unavailable for comment yesterday, but a spokesman said that he has arranged to restore the bill in question to the order paper. This will allow the bill to proceed directly to committee stage without having to be presented to the house and debated at second stage again.
He also said that, as the law stands, householders have the right to use reasonable force to defend their homes. This bill when enacted will clarify and strengthen the law in this regard, said the Department of Justice and Equality spokesman.
Pat Farrell said: “We also want a full review before any Garda stations are closed on foot of Colm McCarthy’s economic report.”
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