Mandurah excessive charges case raises debate about rights to protect property

A smashed roller door at the charged men’s business.
A smashed roller door at the charged men’s business.

THE charges against two Mandurah business owners has sparked debate around what constitutes excessive force and what rights people have when it comes to protecting their property.

Police allege the men aged 49 and 29 used excessive force last week after they detained an alleged intruder at their business on April 3.

MORE: Mandurah men charged with using excessive force when detaining man allegedly stealing from their business.

They were charged with grievous bodily harm.

A friend of one of the charged men has created an online petition because she thinks everyone should have the right to defend themselves, their family and their property with any force they deem fit.

HHG Legal Group managing director Simon Creek said the issue was more complicated than that.

“The whole concept is one of reasonable force and the extent of your reaction,” he said.

“Hypothetically, if you saw someone loading a ute at your house with your personal things you’re allowed in that situation to enact a citizen’s arrest.”

Mr Creek advised anyone in this situation to tell the person that they are placing them under citizen’s arrest and then call the police.

“You are allowed to use reasonable force to detain them; you’re allowed to hold their arms, but if they run off you are not allowed to chase them down and injure them,” he said.

“There is such a fine line between what constitutes reasonable force,” he said.

“A good example of this is a few years ago a family in Welshpool, who after the sixth or seventh break in, slept over at their business with a hunting rifle and shot the intruder.

“I think they’re still in jail.”

Mr Creek said even keeping a chainsaw or an axe by the bed could be considered premeditation by police and land someone in legal trouble.

“But if you happen to pick up a rolling pin from the kitchen and hurt someone that’s different,” he said.

Police minister Liza Harvey is not allowed to direct WA Police to lay or direct charges.

Ms Harvey said as a business owner the incident is concerning.

“I understand the frustration when people break into your business and they steal things from you, because when you’re a small business owner your business is like your home,” she said.

“That said the police have obviously seen a reason to charge these people with offences.

“They are currently before the court and I am not prepared to comment further until that process is complete.”

Meanwhile, Murray-Wellington MP Murray Cowper said he stands by the charged business owners “through thick and thin”.

He wrote on Facebook that the men “face an unpleasant experience of (going) through the justice system”.