Guidance to clarify intruder force
Farmers fearful of their machinery being stolen may soon be offered guidance on how forceful they can be with intruders.
The Justice minister said he was not going to change the law to give all householders in Northern Ireland more latitude to use force, but he told the Assembly he would consider developing guidelines on exactly what was permitted.
David Ford was responding to an Assembly debate on agricultural crime and a call for perpetrators to be handed heavy sentences.
Under the current legislation, a person may use reasonable force to prevent a crime or to assist in the lawful arrest of offenders. This includes protecting property or acting in self defence.
Mr Ford insisted that sentencing was a matter for the judiciary.
"I am determined to respect the independence of the judiciary but I want to explore if producing guidance on the use of reasonable force, based on the current legislation, would be beneficial to the rural community," said the Alliance minister.
Mr Ford said he would write to the justice committee to seek its views on the proposal.
"I understand the argument for the use of reasonable force to defend your property. However, what is reasonable force may well depend on what type of crime is involved," he said.
"I find it hard to imagine any circumstances in which the use of deadly force would be justified in the defence of property. People must always act in accordance with the law, support the police and not take the law into their own hands."
Mr Ford said he did not think the closure of rural police stations was a major factor in rates of agri-crime and said officers on patrol were more important.