Know how to defend yourself

Know how to defend yourself

It’s one of the most terrifying experiences you could wish to endure. But if things escalate even further, home invasions can also be one hell of a legal minefield.

The last thing anyone should have to think about during such a horrendous situation is what laws they should be following. So we wanted to clear the muddy waters of self-defence in this situation.

We’re looking into what you’re allowed to do, and when you’re allowed to do it. Fighting back is generally not advised during a home invasion, but many are left with no other choice. Here’s what you need to know from a legal point of view:

WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS TO PROTECT MYSELF DURING A HOME INVASION?

Speaking to the North West Courier recently, security manager for Ballito UIP Dietter Fittkau made it clear that you can only take a life “if another life is in danger“.

This means that you don’t have a license to shoot an intruder just for discovering them in your house. If that person was unarmed, you’d be in serious trouble yourself.

In fact, the only time you’d have “free reign” to defend yourself is if the invader(s) were armed and were threatening to kill or seriously harm you or other residents.

WHAT’S CLASSED AS “SELF-DEFENCE” IN HOME INVASIONS?

Self-defence action must be relative to the circumstances of the attack, according to the Constitutional Court. If an intruder is armed with a knife – and acting in a way where they look set to use it – you must use appropriate force.

Unfortunately, this is a grey area we are still struggling to clarify as a country. Opening fire on someone armed with a knife could be argued as “excessive force”. However, with each case judged on merit, you may be able use “the reasonable person” defence.

Courts apply this defence to ask if a “reasonable” person in the same position would have acted in such a way. It considers:

  • Foreseeable risk of harm an intruder’s actions creates versus the consequence of a homeowner’s defensive actions.
  • The extent of the risk created by an intruder.
  • Likelihood such risk will actually cause harm to others.
  • Alternatives of lesser risk, and the costs of those alternatives.

In a frightening case of a home invasion, it can be argued you took all four points into consideration before using “reasonable force”. This is what the police will want answers for once an incident has concluded.

WHEN AM I ALLOWED TO SHOOT AN INTRUDER?

We’re not even finished with the “can’ts” yet. If you do subdue someone during a home invasion, you aren’t allowed to shoot them if you’ve already restrained them. Likewise, if you see them storming out of the front door and away from your property holding stolen goods, you cannot open fire.

It literally comes down to all the previous factors: If they are armed with firearms, and acting in an aggressive and life-threatening manner, you are allowed to shoot.

We spoke to Crime Stoppers International expert Yusuf Abramjee on this one:

“One must always act within the framework of the law. You’re actually only allowed to open fire if your life or that of your family is at risk.”

WHAT HAPPENS IF I CAUSE SERIOUS HARM TO AN INTRUDER?

Again, Abramjee was on hand to clear this one up:

“Often, when home invasions result in a criminal being shot dead, police will open a murder docket and investigate. No matter what happens, it’s important to remain calm and to protect yourself and your family.”

As we recently reported, homeowners are fighting back against these invaders. Two cases in Pretoria and Mpumalanga have both been put under review after intruders at both locations were shot dead.

As it stands, only cases of house robbery have been opened. In Pretoria, robbers attempted to steal a father’s car and drive away with his family inside. With those culprits being armed, the man was legally correct to shoot the criminal.

In Mpumalanga, another man of the house discovered burglars on his property who then made threats to kill his family. He too made the decision to pull the trigger. Again, this person acted within a “reasonable person” framework.

WHAT SHOULD I DO DURING A HOME INVASION?

The end goal of home invasions is for everyone to get out alive. If someone is stealing your goods only, it isn’t worth taking a life to then serve upwards of 20 years in jail.

Security organisation Locklatch strongly advise against “being a hero”. They recommend keeping yourself out of harm’s way for as long as possible and co-operating with intruders whilst it remains safe to do so.

Ultimately, using armed force should be a last-ditch attempt to preserve your family’s lives. However, given the utterly nerve-shredding nature of these situations, it is easier said than done. Making a judgement in the heat of the moment is a tough call.

If you are in a situation where you need to take action, you must act reasonably.

READ THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE

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