Watchdog worried law now encourages the use of lethal force against intruders
Fears have been expressed that a law giving a person the right to use reasonable force against an intruder in their home might encourage the increased use of lethal force.
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has said it is worried about the message which may be taken from the Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Act 2011, which was used as a defence for the first time in a murder case this week.
Martin Keenan (20) was acquitted by a Central Criminal Court jury of the murder of drug user and convicted burglar Wesley Mooney (33), who he stabbed with half a garden shears after finding him and another intruder in the bedroom of his mobile home.
Mr Keenan said he was frightened and hit one of the intruders with the implement after coming under attack.
The act, introduced in the wake of the high-profile Padraig Nally case in the mid-2000s, specifies that nothing should require a homeowner to retreat from their dwelling. It also allows for the use of reasonable force if a person believes they are in danger, and specifically states this does not exclude force causing death.
Liam Herrick, executive director of the independent human rights watchdog, said it was worried the law might influence people's behaviour.
"We think this was the wrong approach to take at that time and we still think it is the wrong approach now. The worry would be that a message would go out that might encourage people to use lethal force in circumstances where they wouldn't have otherwise," he told the Irish Independent.
Mr Herrick said lethal force should be considered in a different way to other uses of force. "Whereas the statute goes out of its way to include lethal force we would say that there should be a higher standard than just a general reasonableness," he said.