It is a terrifying scenario for anyone to consider, finding an intruder in the safety of your own home, but what can you do to protect yourself and your family?
Griffith residents were rocked by news a woman had opened her front door to two masked assailants who restrained and robbed her at the start of June, with many writing in to The Area News asking how far they could go to protect themselves if someone broke into their home.
Under NSW law those who are acting in self-defence cannot be held responsible for a crime, but self-defence is not a blanket excuse according to veteran Griffith lawyer David Davidge. “Self-defence, of persons and particularly property, has very real limits, it is only lawful whilst the threat or trespass remains, it must be reasonable and it must be proportionate,” he said.
Under the Crimes Act those acting in self defence must have believed their actions were necessary to defend either themselves or another person, to stop them being unlawfully detained, to protect their property or to prevent criminal trespass.
On top of that, the person’s response must be a “reasonable response in the circumstances as he or she perceives them”.
It is a difficult judgement call to make according to Griffith Police Chief Inspector John Wadsworth, who echoed Mr Davidge’s call for citizens to always call police. “If someone breaks into your house and you have your family in there for any person the adrenaline would be high,” he said. “It would be difficult to make a judgement and it is understandable, if someone is breaking into your house they are generally there to do harm, but the law says you can only do what is reasonable to protect yourself – call the police and let us do our job.”