Friday 15 November 2019

Protecting your property

VIEWS on whether homeowners should be empowered to use lethal force against criminal intruders range from the specious to the sadly fatalistic. At one level, there is talk of landowners shooting children out of apple trees; at another, a farmer who went to jail for shooting an intruder believes that, even under new laws, the odds will always be stacked against the victims of crime.

Huge controversy surrounded the trial of Padraig Nally. Six years ago, he shot a member of the Travelling community called John 'Frog' Ward, who had been trespassing on his property.

The case ignited a debate, still going on, about self-defence and whether it is ever acceptable to take another's life.

The debate is informed by the reality that many elderly people live alone, in isolation, utterly vulnerable.

Mr Nally was sentenced to six years' imprisonment for manslaughter, but his conviction was quashed a year later. He was then declared not guilty and walked free. He still lives in fear of a revenge attack.

Following a review, the Law Reform Commission has now proposed a Bill which would give homeowners the right to use force, not just inside their homes, but also in the immediate surrounding area.

But Padraig Nally has said the proposed new laws would not change anything: "The criminal has all the say."

That is a sad measure of the level of confidence in the State's ability to curb those who would prey on the weak and defenceless. It is a view based on experience.

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