Can You Be Sued If An Intruder Injures Themselves In Your House?
How far can you go in defending yourself and your property if you catch someone inside your home?
According to the latest crime statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were more than 170,000 victims of unlawful entry -- with intent to either steal or otherwise harm someone, across the country last year.
How far can you go to defend your home and can homeowners be liable for injury an intruder sustains inside their home?
Under Australian law people are entitled to arrest someone who is inside their home.
Solicitor Avinash Singh from Sydney Criminal Lawyers said this is a right based on "citizens arrest" that comes under the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act in NSW.
Singh told 10 daily this gives homeowners the right to detain a person but any force used must be "reasonable."
"If you find someone who is breaking into your house, you're allowed to defend your property or yourself, but force has to be reasonable to the threat that’s presented," Singh said.
As an example, Singh said an intruder who comes at someone inside their home with a weapon would require a different level of force as someone who is trying to run away or not presenting any threat.
"If in trying to detain the person, the homeowner ends up causing grievous bodily harm or even murdering them then they [the homeowner] would be liable for damages, potentially even criminal charges."
While there have been various overseas instances of accused burglers suing the property owners for injuries they sustained in the process of attempting to carry out the crime, Singh said in Australia the property owner would not be liable.
In 2010, UK teenager Thomas Buckett was left in a critical condition after shattering one side of his scull when he fell through a skylight on a school roof as part of a dare during a break-in and burglary.
Years after the incident, his family failed in a bid to claim compensation for their son who was left with physical, intellectual and behavioural dysfunction from the injuries, UK media reported.
Singh told 10 daily homeowners are not liable if intruders injure themselves through no fault of the homeowner.
Earlier this week in Melbourne, a would-be-thief was forced to call Triple Zero after he allegedly became stuck in the chimney of a pharmacy.
He was treated for minor injuries before being taken into custody and charged with burglary.
Singh said there was also a difference between U.S. and Australia law when it comes to property owners defending their home from a future intrusion.
"It would be an unusual situation," Singh said, when asked about defense of properties which are potentially prone to being burgled.
"You're entitled to protect your home but I guess it depends on what level of force is used," he said.
"In the U.S. it's a bit different, you're allowed to use lethal force to defend your property, but in Australia that would be something that would not be allowed."
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