Saturday 16 December 2017

Italy could legalise killing burglars - but only at night

Italy could legalise killing burglars
Italy could legalise killing burglars

Lizzie Dearden

A new law in Italy could allow citizens to legally kill unarmed burglars who break into their homes at night as part of "legitimate defence".

Current legislation stipulates that people must have reasonable grounds to fear for their life to avoid a murder charge, but amendments would extend protections to include any burglary at night, or a robbery attempt involving threats or violence. 

Cases would still be considered on an individual basis and with regard to "proportionality" by Italian judges, amid concern that automatic exceptions could be exploited.

David Ermini, a centre-left member of the Italian parliament, warned of the possibility of pre-meditated murders within families "masked by legitimate defence," citing the Oscar Pistorius case.

"The state must balance the rule of law between the right of citizens to self defence when the state cannot intervene promptly, and granting anyone a licence to kill a human being with impunity simply because they committed or attempted a burglary," he said in a proposal filed to parliament.

The Chamber of Deputies voted in favour of the legislation by 225 votes in favour and 166 against on Thursday, but it must be approved by the upper house before coming into effect.

The bill has been going through parliament for two years but became the focus of fresh attention when a restaurant owner killed a burglar in March.

Right-wing politicians were outraged when the businessman, who shot the intruder in the back around 100m outside his property, was investigated for manslaughter.

Members of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party appealed for funds to pay the restaurateur's legal bills and the populist Northern League backed legal changes to give the automatic right to self defence.

The two parties and the Brothers of Italy voted against the bill on the grounds that it did not go far enough to protect home and business owners, with Northern League politicians carrying banners reading "defence is always legitimate" in parliament.

Party leader Matteo Salvini cried out "shame!" as the legislation was approved and was removed from the parliamentary chamber for violating its rules.

The proposed law widens protections under a previous law from 2006 to assaults committed in reaction to any break-in at night or an attempt accompanied by threats, violence or deception.

Protections were expanded in the UK in 2013, allowing residents to use "disproportionate force" to defend themselves after national debate over the arrest of burglary victims who had injured or killed intruders.

"If the tragic situation arises where there is a death I think even then the householder should know that the law is on their side," said Chris Grayling, who was Justice Secretary at the time.

"The presumption should be that they are a victim of crime and not a perpetrator of crime."

Guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service states that the provision “does not give householders free rein to use disproportionate force in every case they are confronted by an intruder” and that each case will be decided in court.

Independent News Service

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