Posted on 15 Aug. 2016
Break in tips – what homeowners can and cannot do
By Slater and Gordon
When it comes to a break in, homeowners are tempted to fight, but a careful retreat or even flight, is what the law advises you to do. I have recently heard some homeowners say that they would be prepared to use a weapon to defend themselves against an intruder or burglar during a break in.
While the thought of being confronted by a stranger in your own home is frightening, it is important to understand that how you choose to react could have legal implications.
As a homeowner, you do not have an automatic right to attack an intruder or a burglar. You cannot hit someone with a baseball bat or any other weapon just because they are standing in your kitchen.
If someone does break in while you are home, you should immediately retreat, call the police (if possible) and not confront the intruder. If you do choose to use a weapon on the intruder, you can find yourself on the wrong side of the law. You could even face criminal charges, including assault with a weapon and causing serious injury. Penalties for the offences vary, but it can include a term of imprisonment.
In some cases, a homeowner who uses force against an intruder may be entitled to rely on an argument that they acted in self defence. To be successful, you will have to show that it was necessary to defend yourself, from the other person or, in some circumstances, your property. You will also have to show that the force used was reasonable and proportionate to the threat.
According to the law, a person is entitled to rely on self-defence if they take steps to forestall a threatened attack before it has begun. Again, the key issue is whether the homeowner’s perception of danger led him or her to believe that the use of defensive force was necessary and that their belief was based on reasonable grounds.
It is up to the Court to decide whether the homeowner acted in self-defence, based on the evidence presented before it.
In extreme cases, an intruder who is injured during a home invasion may also have the right to pursue a civil claim against the homeowner, who in turn has the right to dispute the claim.
My advice would be to have good security measures in place to reduce the chances of a home invasion and establish a good relationship with your neighbours, just in case you need them to assist you or call the police.
Always remember – taking matters into your own hands can be a dangerous exercise and is strongly advised against, unless it is necessary and lawful to do so.
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