Public ‘use of force’ guide may beat burglars

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Police in Derry hope to issue guidelines on the use of self defence to help combat burglary.

The move follows a hike in burglaries in Derry of more than 20% in the current financial year. Derry’s PSNI Area Commander, Chief Inspector Jon Burrows, said the PSNI currently have “no guidelines” on the use of reasonable force by members of the public in the event of an intruder threatening their person, their family or their property. However, he added: “Police advise the public that they do have the right to use reasonable force in protecting their property and family from intruders and that we are currently looking at issuing some guidance soon.”

A Department of Justice spokesperson said Justice Minister David Ford is “considering developing public guidance” on the issue of reasonable force. She added: “The existing law in Northern Ireland provides sufficient protection for the exercise of ‘reasonable force’ in the prevention of crime. It is for the courts to judge whether the force exercised by a homeowner was ‘reasonable’. Guidlines on the use of self defence were issued in England and Wales this year.

Meanwhile, it’s been revealed that 425 burglaries have taken place in Derry since April, compared with 350 burglaries in the same period in the previous financial year. Chief Inspector Jon Burrows said around 80% of the burglaries were “walk-in burglaries rather than break-ins” due to people failing to secure their homes. He urged the public to be more vigilant. “We would advise all householders to review their security. If your doors aren’t secure, neither is your home. close it, lock it and Check it.” But he said his officers work hard to drive down the burglary rate, which “dipped to a 13 year-low in the city in 2011”. He added that combatting burglary remains “the number one priority”. “In the last month alone we have carried out 233 curfew checks on known burglars and arrested 39 people for breaches.” He explained that as part of the Operation Safer Homes campaign, there will be increased police patrols, leaflet drops and an advertising campaign to remind residents to ensure their homes are secure at all times.