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Can you use traps to attack robbers as Kevin Mcallister did in home alone?

No, you can't, and you shouldn't consider it. In the classic movie Home Alone, Kevin Mcallister foils two ne'er-do-well robbers, Marv and Harry, on Christmas Eve using a number of traps, including an iron-to-the face, a flamethrower and swinging paint cans.

So can you defend yourself with the same strategy? The Criminal Code in Canada forbids it. Section 247 says:

247 (1) Every person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years or is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction who with intent to cause death or bodily harm to a person, whether ascertained or not,

  • (a) sets or places a trap, device or other thing that is likely to cause death or bodily harm to a person; or

  • (b) being in occupation or possession of a place, knowingly permits such a trap, device or other thing to remain in that place.

You would likely face civil liability for negligence as well as liability under the Occupier's liability act. which says:

(3) Where a trespasser is a criminal trespasser, no action lies against the occupier for damages for death of or injury to the trespasser unless the death or injury is caused by conduct of the occupier that

(a) is wilful and grossly disproportionate in the circumstances, and

(b) results in the occupier being convicted of an offence under the Criminal Code (Canada) that is prosecuted by indictment.

That is not the end of the matter however. In a case of the imminent threat he was facing, arguably Kevin may be justified in taking the actions he has taken. He may be able to argue self defence, or necessity.

For self defence, there is no right to defend property using force- you have to be acting to defend yourself. Kevin would like be ok here. Self defence is a valid defence to criminal charges and a civil lawsuit in this situation. The problem is the force has to be no more than needed to dispel the threat. In this case, the threat, and escalating actions against a small boy may meet that threshold.

Necessity is not a commonly successful defence. Itcan be used in an urgent situation of imminent peril, which Kevin was in. There must be no reasonable legal alternative- not the case here because Kevin could have called the police. The harm must be proportional- this is arguable.

Civil liability would likely turn on proportionality of methods used, and would be tied to the criminal outcome.

If you would like to discuss this or any other matters, please feel free to contact us. Happy Holidays!

The information contained in this article is not legal advice. No solicitor client relationship is formed through this article. The reader is encouraged to retain counsel for advice in these matters.

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