We need to be free to act in face of fear
THE court decision to clear Martin McCaughey of the charge of assaulting a burglar with his car should receive a guarded welcome.
His motivation in pursuing burglar Daniel McCormack from a bedroom in his family home as he fled was understood by a broad section of society. A successful action for damages by the burglar against Mr McCaughey deepened feelings of sympathy for the home owner.
There should be no carte blanche for violence, under any circumstances. However, people not only want to live in safety but also need to be free from the fear of cowering helplessly in the face of criminal threats.
The recent Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Act 2011 is valuable as it permits 'reasonable force' and does not oblige a home owner to retreat from a threat while at home or in its surroundings.
There must be a reasonable balance and juries are entitled to rely on common sense.