Intruder law 'will increase burglary violence'
Published 28/01/2010 | 05:00
BURGLARS will arm themselves with deadly weapons because of proposed laws allowing homeowners to use lethal force against intruders, it was warned yesterday.
The proposals also mean that children stealing apples from orchards could potentially be shot, said the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL).
The ICCL claimed the recent proposals on intruders from the Law Reform Commission "overstepped" the mark.
The commission stated in 2009 that a person should be allowed to use lethal force when defending their home. It recommended that a person who killed an intruder should be acquitted of murder, but that this would be subject to certain conditions.
The commission's propositions are in the process of being drafted into legislation.
But at the Oireachtas Committee on Justice yesterday, Mark Kelly of the ICCL said the commission put the protection of property above the right to life, as it suggested using protection as a defence in a murder trial, and extended the area of the home to include driveways, gardens or yards.
He said the commission's recommendations meant a burglar would expect violence and would be prepared for it.
The measures came "perilously close" to "right to kill legislation", he added.
Fianna Fail TD Sean Connick said he backed the new laws and that fear had a part to play in discouraging criminals from breaking into homes.
"As a child growing up we would have raided orchards, but there was always an orchard or two you wouldn't go near because you were afraid the guy who owned it had a reputation of coming out after you, and firing a shot into the air," he said.
"So fear does work, it has a part to play in ensuring people think twice before they cross the threshold."
But Mr Kelly said there wouldn't be a safe orchard in the country if the proposals became law.
The ICCL head added that burglars had "a right not to be shot dead".
The issue of whether a person could use lethal force in defending his or her home arose in the case of Mayo farmer Padraig Nally, who shot dead John 'Frog' Ward in 2004. Mr Nally said he had shot Mr Ward to protect his home and was acquitted of manslaughter in a retrial.
Seamus Boland of the Irish Rural Link (IRL) said anyone who was the victim of a burglary should be certain the State is on their side -- but added that the laws should not be misconstrued as a licence to kill.
"If someone has broken into your home, they should not be there and their level of rights should be diminished considerably."
He said people in isolated areas were living in fear but that the IRL was not appealing for a 'have a go' charter.
Mr Boland called for greater emphasis on local-based programmes, such as community alerts and garda initiatives.