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What Is The Law on Self-Defence?

What is the Law on Self-Defence?


Self-defence is an area of law that has received much attention over recent years, however most people are not clear on what exactly constitutes self-defence and whether it can be used successfully as a defence.


This post aims to provide basic information about self-defence – for detailed information about whether you have a defence on these grounds, call our legal team on 01623 397200. We will be able to assess your individual case and advise you.


In general terms, the law of self-defence exists so that people who act ‘reasonably and in good faith’ to defend themselves, their family or their property, or for the prevention of crime or apprehension of an offender, should not face prosecution.


What Is Reasonable?


A key term within the area of self-defence is whether the force used was reasonable force.


What constitutes reasonable force differs depending on the circumstances.


The law has now changed in relation to defending against intruders, with Section 43 of the Crime and Courts Act amending Section 76 of the Criminal Justice & Immigration Act 2008 to allow that in situations where intruders gain entry, a householder who acts instinctively and honestly in the heat of the moment will likely be considered to have acted lawfully in self-defence, even if the force used later turns out to have been disproportionate.


When a case involves preventing a crime or apprehending a criminal, the court will be very concerned with striking a balance between encouraging responsible citizens and discouraging vigilante behaviour. The latter will be disapproved of by the court and cases of vigilante behaviour will be dealt with as such.


The key questions to ascertain whether reasonable force was used are:


  1. Was the use of force necessary?
  2. Was the force used reasonable?


What amounts to reasonable force is established based on the circumstances of each case, so full preparation of defence cases before trial, and specialist advocacy are vital.


While the circumstances of the case are important, the level of force used is to be considered in alignment with what a reasonable person would consider to be reasonable in the situation.


It is also important to consider the circumstances that the defendant believed they were in, and this belief must be genuine, not reasonable. Naturally, the court will require more persuading that an unreasonable belief was genuinely held – for example, a grown man who attacks a single woman who was unarmed may struggle to convince the court that his actions were necessary for self-defence because he genuinely believed that he was under threat of violence.


Self-defence is a complex area of law. If you are facing a criminal charge and believe that you have grounds to argue this defence, contact us now on 01623 397200 for a free initial telephone consultation.



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