Self defence - Law must be crystal clear

FAIR-MINDED people will welcome the report of the Law Reform Commission (LRC), which advocates that victims of crime should have the right to use force to defend themselves, their families and their own homes from attack.

As it stands, the law in this regard is considered too vague.

Attack is frequently considered the best form of defence, so the LRC recommends that a homeowner facing down a burglar would not have to back off from an attacker before launching a defence. Burglars may frequently be bullies, and requiring people to back off may act as a virtual invitation for an attacker to initiate or continue an assault.

The review, which is to be handed to Justice Minister Dermot Ahern today, suggests 46 recommendations for people to defend themselves. These include a provision permitting defence for someone who has suffered sustained attacks, such as domestic abuse. The report also contains a draft for a Criminal Law (Defences) Bill.

The LRC advocates that immediate, necessary and proportionate defence should be authorised. Many people may have thought that such defence was already permissible, but the law was vague. There should be no room for confusion, especially in the light of recent attacks on people in their homes.


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