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Irish homeowners to get right to tackle burglars

Householders in the Irish Republic will have the right to use “reasonable” force against burglars — even if this results in death, under new legislation to be introduced by the Irish government.

The Home Defence Bill will allow a householder to defend their home against an intruder who is intent on committing a crime.

According to Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, this is the first legislative proposal that deals specifically with defence in the home.

It recognises the special status of the home and the right of people to defend it.

Mr Ahern stressed that the legislation would not provide carte blanche to householders to kill burglars.

But he said reasonable force could, in certain circumstances, include killing the intruder with a licensed firearm, or another weapon.

It will be up to a court or a jury to decide whether the force used was reasonable.

In reaching a decision, the court would examine the circumstances in which the person or persons using force believed themselves to be at the time.

The new Criminal Justice (Defence and the Dwelling) Bill 2010 states that it is immaterial whether this belief is justified, as long as it is honestly held.

The Bill also makes it clear that there is no onus on the householder to retreat from the home if coming under attack.

Mr Ahern said this was a new provision and was different from the requirements of the Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.

The Bill ensures that the person using force cannot be held liable for any injury or damage arising from his or her actions and cannot be sued by the burglar for legitimately defending himself or herself, family or property.

The minister decided against introducing mandatory sentencing for burglary as there were already tough penalties on the statutes.

However, while welcoming the Bill, Fine Gael justice spokesman Alan Shatter said last night it was regrettable that the government had delayed publication of the Bill until after the start of the summer recess; consequently, it had no prospect of becoming law until late autumn.

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