The Vilamoura burglary case raises an important question on how each of us would deal with an intruder in our home. The issue of “having a go” if you found a burglar in your home currently being debated in the media and social media, is an impossible one for a person to reasonably answer, simply because we do not know how we would react under stress and every situation is different. Whereas reading this now we have the luxury of time in thinking things through, if under imminent attack we may not have time to make entirely rational decisions.

Fortunately this a very rare case and with the burglary levels at their lowest for some years the chances of this taking place are slim. In Vilamoura the burglar was the one that paid the ultimate price, but it could have been the other way around, with the occupants being seriously injured, leading to death.

This is why dealing with an intruder in your home is so important, because how we respond in a very stressful and potentially dangerous situation, can determine the outcome.

Two years ago Safe Communities Algarve researched this matter and after consultation with local police, produced a document entitled “Guideline in discovering and dealing with intruders in your home”. It covers actions to take in different scenarios, for instance a) You arrive home and think there is a burglar inside your house, b) You are at home and suspect there is a prowler in your grounds, c) You wake up at night and suspect there is an intruder in your home or, d) You come face to face with an intruder in your home.

The guide also covers the issue of the use of “reasonable” force which is defined in Articles 32 and 33 of the Portuguese Penal Code.

Article 32 Legitimate defence states “An act constitutes legitimate defence when committed as the necessary means to repel a present and unlawful aggression on legally protected interests of the agent or of a third party”. Article 33 Excess of Legitimate Defence states “1- If there is excess of the means employed in legitimate defence, the act is unlawful but punishment may be especially mitigated. 2- The agent is not punished if the excess results from non-censurable disturbance, fear or shock.”

There are many factors to consider when assessing whether the use of force is reasonable or excessive, including the level of imminent danger posed.

The full guide can be downloaded from

I emphasize that this is a general guide which is aimed at protecting you and your loved ones. Specific incidents may vary, but being aware of the general principles in handling instances such as this, could reduce the chances of the situation escalating. Forewarned is forearmed.

Remember – “You can replace your possessions but not your life!