herald

Saturday 23 September 2017

Nally Law gives right to defend property

HOUSEHOLDERS have been given licence to defend themselves against intruders with guns or weapons without fear of prosecution.

Controversial new laws brought into effect today have given occupants the right to protect themselves and their property from attack -- as long as they can prove their lives were in danger.

The move comes seven years after farmer Padraig Nally was jailed for killing a man who trespassed on his land -- a case that caused public outrage.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter signed off on the Criminal Law -- the Defence and Dwelling Act -- which came into effect from today.

The law states that homeowners will be allowed to use "reasonable force" to defend themselves against intruders and burglars.

However concern has been raised over what level of defence may be fall into the category of "reasonable" and "appropriate".

The Council of Civil Liberties described the laws as "lax", adding that they show "scant regard" for rights of both the homeowner and the burglar.

"These are lax proposals which contain insufficiently robust legal safeguards to protect the right to life of householders and intruders," according to director Mark Kelly.

The debate over the protection of homeowners against intruders came to focus in 2004 when Mayo farmer Padraig Nally killed an intruder on his land.

Mr Nally was sentenced to six years' imprisonment after he shot dead Traveller John 'Frog' Ward in October 2004 when he found him on his premises.

The conviction was overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeal amid national uproar.

A spokesperson for the Padraig Nally Support Group welcomed the move but urged householders not to "declare open season".

"I think it is great that this has finally come to law. I would advise people not to declare open season and to err on the side of caution with this."

Mr Shatter said it is very important that individuals and families feel safe in their homes.

"[The Act] recognises in a very practical manner the special constitutional status of a person's dwelling and makes it clear that a person may use reasonable force to defend themselves in their home," he said.

hnews@herald.ie

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