Home defence legislation gets broadly positive feedback

THE new home defence legislation introduced by the Government has received broadly positive feedback so far.

The Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Bill 2010, once passed, will clarify the law on the use of reasonable force by a homeowner protecting his or her property against an intruder.

Such clarification had been sought since the high-profile case in 2004 when Mayo farmer Pádraig Nally shot dead an intruder on his property.

Mr Nally was initially convicted of the manslaughter of John “Frog” Ward, but his conviction was quashed on appeal in October 2006 and he was found not guilty of manslaughter by a jury in a retrial.

Specifically, the new bill will:

nProvide definitions for such terms as “dwelling” and “property”.

nClarify the extent to which justifiable force may be used against an intruder.

nAllow for the use of lethal force by a homeowner, provided that it was justifiable.

nProvide that a person who uses such force, as is permitted by the bill, cannot be sued for any injury, loss or damage arising from such force.

Fine Gael justice spokesman Alan Shatter welcomed the bill but criticised its delayed introduction.

“The provisions contained in the bill which permit a homeowner or resident to use reasonable force to protect himself or his property, or to prevent the commission of a crime are welcome,” Mr Shatter said.

“It is this fundamental reform in our law that has been required for many years. The need for it was highlighted by the circumstances of 2004 which resulted in the prosecution of Pádraig Nally.”

Mr Shatter said Fine Gael had twice published similar legislation in recent years, only to see it rejected by the Government.

“Had the Government adopted either Fine Gael measure the reform now provided for would already be part of our law,” he added.

Rural Link, the national network of rural community groups, also welcomed the bill, saying it was “sensible legislation” giving much-needed clarity to homeowners.

“This sensible bill reassures homeowners of their rights and understands that breaking into anyone’s home is an act of aggression,” said policy offer Seán O’Leary.

“Removing the obligation to retreat and allowing homeowners to stand their ground when their property comes under attack is a common-sense move. We hope it puts an end to the unfair situation whereby the victims who try to defend themselves and their families are fearful of prosecution.

“This bill is far from the ‘licence to kill’ sometimes portrayed, nor does it solve everything. We still need to address matters of rural isolation and how our more remote areas are policed.”

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties, meanwhile, said it would “closely study” the bill to determine if its provisions “are human rights compliant”.


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