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Self-Defence and the Prevention of Crime
A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances for the purposes of (in the alternative): -
In assessing the reasonableness of the force used, prosecutors should ask two questions:
- defence of another;
- defence of property;
- prevention of crime;
- lawful arrest.
The courts have indicated that both questions are to answered on the basis of the facts as the accused honestly believed them to be (R v Williams (G) 78 Cr App R 276), (R. v Oatbridge, 94 Cr App R 367).
- was the use of force necessary in the circumstances, i.e. Was there a need for any force at all?; and
- was the force used reasonable in the circumstances?
To that extent it is a subjective test. There is, however, an objective element to the test. The jury must then go on to ask themselves whether, on the basis of the facts as the accused believed them to be, a reasonable person would regard the force used as reasonable or excessive.
It is important to bear in mind when assessing whether the force used was reasonable the words of Lord Morris in (Palmer v R 1971 AC 814);
"If there has been an attack so that self defence is reasonably necessary, it will be recognised that a person defending himself cannot weigh to a nicety the exact measure of his defensive action. If the jury thought that that in a moment of unexpected anguish a person attacked had only done what he honestly and instinctively thought necessary, that would be the most potent evidence that only reasonable defensive action had been taken ..."