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  • Writer's pictureCraig Knowles

What are your rights for self-defence if and when attacked?

In the UK, the law on self-defence is outlined under common law and the Criminal Law Act 1967. Here’s a summary of your rights regarding self-defence if you are attacked:

Common Law Principles

  1. Reasonable Force: You are allowed to use reasonable force to defend yourself or others if you are attacked. The force used must be proportionate to the threat posed.

  2. Imminent Threat: Self-defence is only justified if there is an immediate threat. You cannot use force pre-emptively without their being an imminent danger.

  3. Duty to Retreat: There is no legal requirement to retreat if you are in your home ("householder cases"), but outside the home, the law encourages avoiding confrontation if possible.

Criminal Law Act 1967

  • Section 3: This section states that a person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime, or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or of persons unlawfully at large.

Householder Cases

  • In your home, you can use disproportionate force if you believe you are in imminent danger. This is still subject to a test of reasonableness. The force must not be grossly disproportionate.

Key Points to Consider

  • Proportionality: The amount of force used must be in proportion to the threat faced. Excessive force can result in criminal charges.

  • Honest Belief: The person using force must have an honest belief that it is necessary to defend themselves or others.

  • Consequences: If force results in serious injury or death, the police will investigate to ensure the force used was reasonable and necessary under the circumstances.

Legal Defence

If you are charged with a crime for using force in self-defence, you may argue that:

  1. You were defending yourself, others, or property.

  2. You were preventing a crime.

  3. The force used was reasonable and necessary in the circumstances.

Legal Advice

In any case of self-defence where force is used, it is advisable to seek legal counsel to ensure your actions are justified under UK law.

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