As a hypothetical scenario let’s say a burglar enters your house. Startled you grab something to hand and attack them. Would this technically count as self-defence? In this article, we are looking at self-defence as defined by UK law and what you need to be aware of.
The first thing to make clear is that in the scenario we discussed you do not have to wait to be attacked first. The main emphasis is on using reasonable force in order to defend yourself and your loved ones. If it is deemed that you did not use excessive force it is less likely that you will not be prosecuted as courts will often lead towards giving defendants the benefit of the doubt in these situations.
What is reasonable force?
This then raises the question “What is reasonable force?”
In simple terms, it is not about the weapon that you use or how hard you hit someone if you do something in the heat of the moment and in an extreme circumstance. The things that a court would look at is whether you had the chance to inform the authorities, whether the weapon in your home was specifically there for intruders or if the force used on the intruder was pre-meditated and excessive.
Disproportionate force would be hitting someone harder than necessary in a situation that didn’t demand it, for example severely injuring someone when they were already on the ground or you were not in immediate danger. If it was clear you had laid out a trap or had prepared for someone to invade your home then this would be taken into account, increasing the chances of being prosecuted.
Another example is if you use martial arts – some moves can allow you to run off and escape a dangerous situation with a quick strike or a hold can stop someone from attacking you. However, if you hold too hard and break someone’s arm when you didn’t have to or use a strike or choke that kills someone then you would be a lot more likely to be prosecuted.
Gross disproportionate force is the extreme version of this and while defending your loved ones is understandable if you end up killing someone in a situation where you could have informed the police or acted in another way, then it is very likely that you will be prosecuted.
A fine line
The difficulty is that it is not always clear whether or not something can be defined as self-defence as what one person defines as reasonable force another may feel is excessive. Therefore, in a judgement there is always the danger that a Judge could have an unconscious bias that would affect the judgement either way.
This is why it is important to use an experienced legal professional that specialises in these kinds of cases. At Larcomes we believe in being “big enough to specialise and small enough to care”.
We know that these cases can be very emotive and difficult to deal with. For more information or to talk to a specialist representative contact us today.