Home Defence Proposals “Overstep the Mark” Oireachtas Committee Told

  • 27-01-2010
  • Categorized in: Justice

Press release – for immediate release

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Ireland’s leading rights watchdog, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has told an Oireachtas Committee that some of the home defence proposals produced by the Law Reform Commission last December “overstep the mark” and should not become law.

Speaking to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights today (27 January 2010), the Council’s Director Mr Mark Kelly said that the ICCL fully agrees that householders should know their rights if someone breaks into their home.

However, he stressed that a number of the Commission’s proposals go well beyond clarifying the existing law for householders.

Mr Kelly told the Committee that:

“It is with regret that the Irish Council for Civil Liberties has concluded that some of the Law Reform Commission’s proposals overstep the mark, by placing the right to defence of property above the right to life.”

“Section 3 of the Draft Criminal Law (Defences) Bill produced by the Commission last December would allow householders to justify the use of lethal force not only to repel unlawful force by a burglar, but also to prevent someone entering their property or damaging their home.  This proposal is at odds with Article 40.3 of the Irish Constitution and conflicts with Ireland’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights” Mr Kelly said.

“The Law Reform Commission has also suggested that, at their murder trials, householders should have a defence if they use lethal force not only in their homes, but also in their driveways, fields, gardens or yards.  This comes perilously close to Michael McDowell’s ill-fated 2007 “licence to kill” legislation, and has no place in our law” Mr Kelly added.

“The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has great respect for the Law Reform Commission’s work; however, it would be failing in its duty as an independent watchdog if it did not highlight the dangerous flaws in these particular proposals” Mr Kelly concluded.


Mark Kelly is available for interview and further comment.

For more information, please contact:

Walter Jayawardene
Campaigns and Communications Officer
Irish Council for Civil Liberties
9-13 Blackhall Place
Dublin 7

Tel. + 353 1 799 4504
Mob: +353 87 9981574
E-mail: walter.jayawardene@iccl.ie

Note to editors:

Section 3 of the Draft Criminal Law (Defences) Bill produced by the Commission last December is currently drafted as follows:
Legitimate defence and the dwelling
3.—(1) Without prejudice to the generality of section 2, a person does not
commit an offence where he or she uses force, including lethal force, in his or
her dwelling, or in the vicinity of the dwelling, by way of defence to the threat
of, or use of, unlawful force by another person.
(2) Notwithstanding section 2(2), a person is justified in using lethal force
in his or her dwelling, or in the vicinity of the dwelling, by way of defence to
the threat of, or use of, unlawful force by another person, but only in order to
repel the threat of—
(a) death or serious injury,
(b) rape or aggravated sexual assault,
(c) false imprisonment by force,
(d) entry to or occupation of the dwelling (including forcible entry or
occupation) that is not authorised by or in accordance with law, or
(e) damage to or destruction of the dwelling.
(3) Notwithstanding section 2(5), the defence provided by this section
applies to a person who has a safe and practicable opportunity to retreat from
his or her dwelling (or from the vicinity of the dwelling) but does not do so.
(4) In this section —
(a) ―dwelling means the place where a person ordinarily resides, and
includes a house, apartment, building, mobile home, caravan, vessel or other
structure ordinarily used for habitation, whether movable or temporary, or a
portion of such place or structure.
(b) ―vicinity means the area (including another building) near the
dwelling, and includes any access path, courtyard, driveway, field, garden or
yard which is ordinarily used in conjunction with the dwelling.
(5) The provisions of section 2(3), section 2(4), section 2(6), section 2(7),
section 2(8) and section 2(9) apply to the defence provided by this section.

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