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Pleading Self-defence

Self-defence is a defence permitting reasonable force to be used to defend one’s self or another. So for example, if you are in a situation where you’re being attacked, it is acceptable to defend yourself in a reasonable manner, using reasonable force to prevent the attacker from causing you further harm or injuries.

A complete defence

Self-defence is a complete defence to all non-sexual offences involving the unlawful use of force (anything from battery to murder). To rely upon this defence, there are two key areas to consider:

The defendant must have honestly believed it was necessary to use force to defend themselves, while the force must have been reasonable in the circumstances, meaning the force must not have been excessive. The basic principles of self-defence are outlined in (Palmer v R, [1971] AC 814); approved in R v McInnes, 55 Cr App R 551:

“It is both good law and good sense that a man who is attacked may defend himself. It is both good law and good sense that he may do, but only do, what is reasonably necessary.”

What constitutes “reasonable force”?

It’s important to make it clear that individual circumstances must be taken into account, so what is classed as reasonable force in one situation, may not be in another, while mitigating factors will also apply. The reasonable force must have been for the purpose of self-defence, defence of property, defence of another person or the prevention of crime. That said, the law does recognise individuals cannot be expected to meticulously weigh up the amount of force which is reasonable in a rapidly escalating and dangerous situation. If a person uses force that they honestly believed to be necessary, this is a strong sign they acted lawfully.

Must you retreat or wait to be attacked?

There is no legislation to say that a person must wait to be struck first before they may defend themselves, yet you do not have to retreat either. These mitigating factors may be taken into account, but if you feel it was necessary to defend yourself using reasonable force, it’s likely you have not acted outside of the law.

Can you carry a weapon for self defence purposes?

It’s important to understand that there is no set weapon you can use, carry or own for the purpose of self-defence. Any weapon that is bought and carried for the specific reason of being used as a weapon is not lawful.

Self-defence is a highly complex area of the law and that’s why it’s critical to prepare a case thoroughly with the help of an experienced solicitor. At Noble Solicitors, we’ve defended many clients who were accused of assaults, from common assault to actual bodily harm or grievous bodily harm. With decades of experience in case building that is based on a sound knowledge of the criminal justice system, we fight for our clients, protecting their rights every step of the way.

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