You may have seen headlines about people fending off intruders in their home or fighting off someone in the street that was attacking them. In some cases, a person may be prosecuted for the injuries they cause their attackers, and in other cases, they don’t. The difference is in whether or not “reasonable force” was used. While defending yourself is important and understandable, it is the way in which you do it that a court has to decide if it is reasonable.
Generally speaking, if you hit someone in the heat of the moment, then this would usually be classed as self-defence. However, if it can be shown that the attack was pre-meditated (for example having a weapon specifically to hand, especially if that weapon is illegal), then it may not be defined as reasonable force.
That being said, you do not have to wait to be attacked- if you attack someone first who invades your home, then this would be classified as self-defence. However, if you specifically set up traps or continue attacking an invader after you are no longer in danger, then you are liable for prosecution.
Benefit of the Doubt
Disproportionate force may not always result in you being prosecuted. Essentially the “benefit of the doubt” comes in if you can show that you did what you thought was right at the time, and it is only afterwards that you could conclude that the force you used was excessive.
It is also important to emphasise that this applies to you and loved ones who you think might be in danger- it does not extend to your home or personal property (although a citizen’s arrest is allowed if you do a single blow or tackle in order to retrieve stolen property).
In legal terms “grossly disproportionate” refers to a level of force that is not only unnecessary but incredibly dangerous. For example, you could react and elbow someone in order to stop them grabbing you, and this would be reasonable. A disproportionate response would be to then follow up with a kick while they were down, though it could be argued you might still fear for your life.
A grossly disproportionate action would be if you hit someone, knocked them unconscious and then continued to hit them after they were clearly unconscious and no threat to you.
Some people may feel it is unjust that the police look into injuries or death when someone has invaded a home. It is their responsibility to investigate this as sometimes cases are not as obvious as they appear. While it may sound like something out of a film, there are many examples of real life cases where people have covered up drug related feuds and murders by claiming someone had invaded their home.
We can help
If you have been targeted by a home invader, involved in a mugging and so forth it is natural that you could feel stressed out and afraid. We will do our best to listen to your situation and offer advice on how we can represent you. For more information or to discuss your circumstances with a specialist legal representative, please contact Larcomes today.