Peter Fisher – v2lawblog
Self Defence is each person’s fundamental right to defend themselves against an attacker. Here is a quick guide to understanding what you can and can’t do.
The Criminal Law Act 1976 states: “A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances…”
Let’s take a look at what this means:
- Use equal and reactive force to defend yourself against attack. Equal force means that if someone punches you, you are entitled to punch them back in order to prevent further attack. Reactive force means this must happen at the moment of an attack or perception of attack (not earlier or later).
- Use Pre-emptive force to prevent an attack. If you believe someone is about to attack you, you may strike first in order to prevent the attack.
- Use equal and reactive force to defend someone under your responsibility. Self-defense is extended to allow you to legally defend others.
- Use reasonable force to apprehend a criminal. Citizens arrest provides that you would have the right to apprehend a trespasser in aid of the police in this instance you can use reasonable force to apprehend a criminal. Reasonableness in this regard is what a normal person considers as ‘lawful use of force’ in this scenario and will often be a matter for a judge or jury to decide.
- Use unequal force. You cannot escalate an assault: If someone punches you, you are not entitled to attack them with a weapon, or inflict grievous bodily harm. Remember, the statute is for the “lawful protection of yourself and others”, not an opportunity to assault someone.
- Use pre-meditated force. You cannot return later to get revenge on an attacker or attack them after the incident has occurred.
- Shoot trespassers. A trespasser is not necessarily an aggressor and therefore the force used should be minimal unless an attack or apprehension of attack ensues. However, you are well within your right to apprehend and detain the criminal until the police arrive.
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