Home protection

Please explain my rights in relation to the protection of my home, my family, and my property against burglars. In the event that I unintentionally injure a burglar whilst defending my home can he sue me for damages?

The Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling ) Act 2011 (the Act ) came into effect on January 13, 2012. This Act explains that homeowners may use reasonable force to defend themselves against intruders unlawfully in their home. The new law also extends these protections to the curtilage of the dwelling, ie the area immediately surrounding or adjacent to the dwelling which is used in conjunction with the dwelling, other than any part of that area that is a public place.

The Act provides that it shall not be an offence for a person who is a lawful occupant of a dwelling to use reasonable force against another person where he believes the other person has entered or is entering the dwelling as a trespasser for the purpose of committing a criminal act.

The force used may only be such as is reasonable in the circumstances:

(i ) to protect himself or another person present in the dwelling from injury or assault,

(ii ) to protect his property from theft, destruction or damage, or

(iii ) to prevent the commission of a crime or to assist a lawful arrest.

The Act further provides that a person who uses such reasonable force cannot be sued by a burglar for damages for any injury, loss or damage and will not be guilty of an offence. Under the Act, householders are entitled to use such force as they believe is reasonable for their protection. The use of force shall not exclude the use of force causing death but this is not a licence for unwarranted violence as the force used must be reasonable and justified.

This column is prepared by Dolores Gacquin, solicitor. Byrne Carolan Cunningham have offices in Athlone, Moate, and Lanesborough.

A person should always contact their solicitor to obtain legal advice specific to their own situation. The above column contains general information and cannot be relied upon as legal advice.

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