Ben Batterham has been charged with the murder of a man he says was in his house. The alleged intruder, Ricky Slater, died in a Newcastle hospital after suffering fatal injuries allegedly inflicted by Batterham and perhaps some other people.
But at least 120,000 Australians think that Batterham is a hero, not a criminal.
“I’m so fucking angry this is happening to this poor bloke… Good on Ben I would have done the same.”
“He has done Newcastle a favour and should be rewarded for his bravery.”
“We have the right to protect our homes!!!”
Batterham’s actions have struck a chord. Many people have been moved to share what they would have done if they thought their home was in danger.
For many people that includes lethal force.
There are a number of competing stories about what happened around 3:30am on Saturday night.
Early reports were that Slater was outside the house, looking in the window of Batterham’s sleeping child. This morning we heard that Slater was found outside Batterham’s child’s door holding a woman’s purse.
There is a Triple-O call which The Daily Telegraph says records Batterham chasing Slater out of the house and then threatening him before there was a fight. Yesterday afternoon, the Daily Mail revealed that Slater had previously been charged with breaking an entering offences.
There is a lot that we don’t know about this case. We definitely don’t know what was in the mind of Slater or Batterham that night. That’s for the judge and jury to determine.
But what we do know is this: In Australia, it is not legal to kill a person simply because they are in your house. Nor do you get to kill someone just because they are robbing your house. They might be making a smoothie in your kitchen or using your towel to have a shower, but that doesn’t mean you have a right to kill them.
The intruder may have a full rap sheet of prior convictions for rape and property offences. They may have an ice addiction. But that is not going to be relevant unless you knew about them and recognised the intruder (or you knew of intruders of with that history in the area) and that information made you afraid.
Ultimately, there’s no rule that says that it’s open season once a person crosses your threshold. There is no castle. This isn’t Game of Thrones.
It’s still a crime to kill people. You may have an excuse for doing it. But the law will only let you access that excuse (or defence) in very specific circumstances.