The use of being intoxicated as a defence by burglars – preventing them being attacked in self-preservation by homeowners – needs to be clarified, says Waterford TD Brendan Kenneally.

Speaking in the Dáil this week on the new Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Bill 2010, the Fianna Fáil backbencher referred to the outcry following the high-profile death of an elderly man in Waterford City last year after his home was broken into. “There was no actual physical assault, but there is no doubt that the incident caused the unfortunate victim to lose his life,” Mr Kenneally said. In his view, “The penalty for conviction in a case like this should not merely be for burglary or breaking and entering, but related in some close fashion to the death which resulted.”

Also, as far as he’s concerned, “if a perpetrator gets injured during a break-in or in an assault during the defence of the family home, then, to put it mildly, ‘tough luck’. If somebody is trespassing with criminal intent or is in the process of burglary, then there must be the right to defend oneself and one’s home with reasonable force,” he insisted – stressing that the definition of what’s ‘reasonable’ is key.

Mr Kenneally added that “while most people do not carry firearms in their homes in this country… a person here could have a hurley or baseball bat close at hand for such situations.” Noting that the proposed legislation as drafted “does not exclude the use of force causing death… It is important that we now define this clearly, in light of some famous cases,” he said.

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