Self-defence is a complete defence to all offences of violence ranging from low level public disorder through to the most serious offences including murder.

If an individual is prosecuted for an alleged assault and they rely upon the defence of self-defence then the onus is on the prosecution to convince the jury that the defendant wasn’t lawfully acting in self-defence. The defendant does not have to prove that they were acting in self-defence, they simply have to raise it as a defence.

Self defence law UK

In order to rely upon this defence there are two elements that must be considered:

  1. The defendant must have believed it was necessary to use force in the circumstances to defend themselves, for example the defendant must have felt threatened by an expected attack and used force to prevent the attack taking place
  2. The force used must be reasonable in the circumstances. This means that the force used must not be excessive.

What is reasonable force in self defence?

In order to plead self defence with the use of reasonable force, the defendant may only have used ‘such force as (was) reasonable in the circumstances’.

The reasonable force must have been for the purpose of:

  1. Self defence
  2. Defence of property
  3. Defence of another person
  4. Prevention of a crime

Every case of self defence is different and it is not possible to specify the correct level of force that would be lawful in any given situation, as mitigating factors and circumstances will apply.

The law does however recognise that a person cannot be expected to carefully weigh up the amount of force which is suitable to be used in an imminent situation and therefore if a person uses no more force than they honestly believed to be necessary, this is a strong indication that they have acted lawfully.

Can I hit someone in self defence?

If you anticipate an attack from another, you can use reasonable force to prevent the attack and be found to be acting in self defence. However you cannot use preventative force such as hitting someone without good reason.

What should you do if you need to plead self defence?

Self defence is a highly complex area of the law. If you are in a position whereby you may have a case where self defence could be an issue, it is vital that you seek specialist legal advice from qualified experts. At Lawtons we have the necessary experience and expertise to deal with cases of this nature.

Get in touch with us to discuss the specifics of your individual case.

Nb. This guide is intended to give general information only and not intended to be used as the basis upon which advice is given, nor should it be relied upon as giving advice specific to a case or individual. Lawtons do not accept liability for anyone using this guide. Should you require specific advice in connection with a real case or situation, please contact us immediately so that we can provide specific advice.