The Occupiers' Liability Act 1984 is too greatly in favour of the burglar, says Baroness Gardner of Parkes.
As a member of the House of Lords since 1981, I recall the deliberations on the Occupiers' Liability Act 1984. I was concerned then, and remain so, that the law was too greatly in favour of the intruder, particularly the burglar, who entered a property, intending to carry out a theft – or an individual planning to damage another's property.
This Act, applying to England and Wales, covers the liability of persons, occupiers of premises, for injury suffered by persons other than their visitors.
The Act states in clause four: 'where, by virtue of this section, an occupier of premises owes a duty to another in respect of such a risk, the duty is to take such care as is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case to see that he does not suffer injury on the premises of reason of the danger concerned'.
I have always thought that it could mean that residents were obliged to spend money to maintain a property they owned or occupied, even if they did not have the means to do so. How is the safety of a property measured and why should anyone owe this duty to unwelcome intruders?
When I read in the Daily Telegraph on February 12, 2011, that the police in Kent and Surrey had warned local residents not to put wire mesh on the windows of their garden sheds as it might cause injury to a burglar, I thought it is time that this subject was raised again. Clarification is required.
People are, on the one hand, being advised by crime-reduction officers to protect their property and the contents of their shed or garage, and at the same time they are advised not to use the means to do so, for fear of being sued by burglars. It must be time to review this confusing law.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes will ask the government whether it will review the rules on homeowners' liability in the event of injury to intruders on private domestic property.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes is a Conservative peer originally from Australia. She stood as a Conservative candidate at two consecutive general elections, in the constituency of Blackburn in 1970 and North Cornwall in 1974.