Self-Defence

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  • Self-defence
    • definition
      • self defence and defence of another are found in common law
      • s.3 (1) Criminal Law Act 1967 - statutory defence of prevention of crime
        • person may use force reasonable in the circumstances to prevent crime or arrest or to help arrest offenders, suspected offenders or persons unlawfully at large
      • Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 clarifies the law
      • s.76(5) CJIA 2008
        • D cannot rely on mistaken belief, if it is as a result of intoxication
      • R v Symonds (1998) - driver drove on pavement to avoid a manic pedestrian and calimed self-defence
        • self defence allowed but pointed out duress of circumstances was more appropriate
    • what degree of force is acceptable?
      • Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008
        • a person who is being attacked should not be expected to weigh to a nicety the exact measure of force to use
      • no duty to retreat
        • Bird (1985) - gouged out ex-bf eye during heated argument and after V hit D
          • no need to demonstrate a willingness to retreat from a threatened attack
          • even possible to strike first
            • reasonableness of this is for jury to decide
      • force must be used when danger of situation is still on-going
    • What if a mistake is made about the level of force needed?
      • defendant is judged by the circumstances as he honestly believed them to be
      • jury decides if amount of force was reasonable, based on D's genuine perception
      • s76(3) CJIA 2003 - confirms a mistake need only be honest not necessarily reasonable
      • Williams (1987) - grabbed and injured police officer mistakenly thought was assaulting youth
        • CA quashed conviction as jury had been directed mistaken to be reasonable but it need only be honest - s.76(3)
    • What if D uses a pre-emptive strike?
      • D can act first to prevent force
      • sometimes D can take precautions, and even break the law, so he can defend himself should the need arise
      • AG Ref (NO 2 of 1983) (1984) - CA held that D could make preparations in self defence when man stored petrol bombs in shops during riots
      • R v Beckford (1988) - police mistakenly shot dead a suspect
        • it was held not necessary to wait to be attacked
    • what if D uses excessive force?
      • defence will fail if D uses excessive force
      • Clegg (1995) - on check-point duty who fired bullets at passing car mistakenly thinking it was terrorists, last bullet killed joy-rider
        • no self-defence as final bullet shot once car had passed
    • Are the defendant's characteristics relevant?
      • characteristics are not relevant to whether D used reasonable force
      • s76 CJIA 2008
        • does not make a mention of exclusions based on psychiatric conditions and so the presumption is that they will be taken into account in future cases
      • s54 Coroners and Justice Act 2009
        • provides defence if self-control lost due to fear of serious violence,
          • if a person Ds age and sex with a normal degree of tolerance and self-restraint and in the circumstances might have reacted the same or similar way
      • Martin (Anthony) (2002)- shot and killed burglar as ran away and wounded other
        • no self-defence, as fired at person running away.
        • held to be excessive force even though D had psychiatric condition and perceived greater danger than average person
        • demonstrates that self defence could be used to defend property

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