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New law 'not a licence to kill', says minister

A new law giving homeowners the right to protect their family and property from intruders using ‘reasonable force’.
Jan 13th 2012, 8:43 AM 4,818 49

THE MINISTER for Justice has warned people that a new law regarding the use of reasonable force against intruders cannot be used as an excuse to attack someone.

Alan Shatter was speaking to Newstalk Breakfast as a new law giving homeowners the right to defend themselves, their families and their property against intruders in their own home comes into effect today.

The legislation concerns the use of ‘reasonable force’, which the minister described as force that’s in proportion to the threat someone perceives they are under. The level of  force would depend on the individual circumstances.

“It’s not a licence to kill anyone,” the minister added.

‘Insufficient safeguards’

Mark Kelly, director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), has criticised the legislation, saying its provisions “contain insufficiently robust legal safeguards to protect the right to life of householders or intruders”.

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Kelly said yesterday that the law “encourages people to use lethal force to defend their property” and that the law is at odds with Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights which he says “obliges the state to ensure that lethal force can only be used if absolutely necessary and strictly proportionate in all the circumstances.”

The Criminal Law (Defence and Dwelling) Act 2011 comes after intense debate over the use of force in self-defence following the death of John Ward in Co Mayo. He died after being shot while trespassing on the property of farmer Padraig Nally in October 2004.

Nally was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to six years, but his conviction was overturned on appeal after the court accepted he had not been permitted to use self-defence as an argument at his trial.

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Susan Ryan

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