'Shai Dromi' bill ready for Knesset

Proposal is meant to protect homeowners who attack burglars.

Dromi 224.88 (photo credit: Channel 1)
Dromi 224.88
(photo credit: Channel 1)
The Knesset Law Committee on Tuesday approved two versions of a bill aimed at providing added protection from criminals who break into private property. The legislation was inspired by the case of Shai Dromi, owner of a private farm in the Negev, who on January 12, 2007 shot and killed a Beduin who broke into his farm to steal sheep. Dromi wounded another of the four Beduin intruders. He was arrested at the time for the killing. However, the case galvanized farmers all over the country to support him and protest the thievery that has plagued them for years. One of the two versions of the bill approved on Tuesday was proposed by the government. It calls for amending Article 34J of the Criminal Code, which automatically exonerates a person from criminal responsibility if he can prove that he acted in self-defense. According to Article J, "no person shall bear criminal responsibility for an act that was immediately necessary in order to repel an unlawful attack which posed real danger to his own or another person's life, freedom, bodily welfare or property." According to the government amendment, "in case of a break-in into someone's private home with the intent to commit a crime, the person who is attacked or another person who is with him at the time will be presumed to have been facing a genuine threat to life or body unless proven otherwise." The second part of the government amendment, which was drafted by the committee, refers to the reasonability of the act. Currently, the Penal Code states that if the person being attacked responds unreasonably, considerations of self-defense, which would normally acquit him of guilt, do not apply. According to the government amendment, if the response of the person attacked deviates to a small degree from reasonability, the judge will go lightly on the sentence or even waive it altogether. The government proposal does not offer any new protection beyond what the Criminal Code already provides, for those whose farms or businesses are broken into by intruders. The second proposal the committee approved was submitted by MKs Yisrael Katz (Likud), Zvi Hendel (NU/NRP) and Eli Gabai (NU/NRP). Unlike the government proposal, it offers protection to both home- and business-owners (including families) whose premises are broken into. According to their proposed amendment, "no person shall bear criminal responsibility for an act that was done to repel anyone who entered or broke into his home in order to commit, or try to commit, a crime." The same terms apply to anyone breaking into, or trying to break into, a farm or business. The MKs' proposal does not require a presumption that the life of the home- or business-owner was in danger in order to exonerate him of guilt for killing the intruder. In a subarticle, the bill only states that in order for the home- or business-owner to be regarded as acting in self-defense, the action must not be "manifestly unreasonable." Knesset Law Committee chairman Menahem Ben-Sasson said he would bring both proposals to the plenum for approval and then try to merge them, or have the committee choose between them, before the legislation is returned to the plenum for final reading.