Home owner in court after chasing intruder

A Wollongong solicitor has slammed charges brought against  a former police diver who took  on an intruder in his home.

James Friederich Clarke, 55, chased the prowler and hit him in the leg with a mallet after the intruder ripped his front door off and hit his partner in the face.

Although a victim of the home invasion, Clarke found himself before the court this week, receiving a nine-month good behaviour bond for harming the intruder.

Solicitor Aaron Kernaghan, who acted for Clarke, said the charge was a slap in the face.

‘‘My client and his partner were victims in the prosecution case against their intruder,’’ he said.

‘‘They made statements, they gave evidence and they went through the process of watching their assailant being charged before they were told not to come to court for his sentencing.

‘‘After being denied a role in the proceedings as a victim, Mr Clarke was then charged for assaulting the person who broke into his home... it’s a bizarre set of circumstances.’’

Mr Kernaghan believes the matter is a cautionary tale for home owners wanting to defend themselves against intruders.

‘‘People need to be careful they don’t go too far in protecting themselves or they might find themselves in the dock,’’ he said.

Clarke and his partner were asleep in their Barrack Heights home about 1.30am on November 14, 2011 when they heard someone banging on their bedroom window.

They recognised the intruder – an acquaintance of Clarke’s partner – and ran to call the police.

Seconds later, Clarke’s partner went to the front door to find it had been forced open and pulled off its hinges.

She came face-to-face with the intruder who struck her in the mouth.

Clarke managed to push the prowler out the door, poking him with a mallet handle. 

He then chased the intruder up the street before he struck him with the mallet. When the man tried to get up, Clarke repeatedly hit him in the leg.

A neighbour, who heard the assault, called police as Clarke returned to his house.

The intruder was taken to Wollongong Hospital with a broken leg, which had to be fixed with plates.

Clarke, who now lives in Bawley Point, pleaded guilty in Wollongong District Court on Monday to recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm.

Mr Kernaghan said his client was happy with the outcome, noting Judge Paul Conlon had given him a fair sentence.

‘‘It was a really compassionate judgment,’’ Mr Kernaghan said.

‘‘He really recognised the reality of the situation – it was bizarre circumstances where the crime was essentially a man defending himself and going after someone who broke into his home.’’

The intruder was given a 12-month good behaviour bond.