Self-Defence – Is it a Defence?

Anyone of us could find ourselves in a situation where we are facing someone intent on inflicting harm on us, our family or property. Australian law does recognise that in situations like this, self-defence of a person or property is applied.

How self-defence is applied

Generally speaking, self-defence as a legal defence relies on the person defending themselves to believe that the self defence is necessary, and in most cases that the self-defence is proportionate.

When dealing with self-defence you may hear the term “reasonable person”. This is because there is no detailed formula of what is acceptable self-defence and what isn’t. It is based on what a reasonable person would do in the same situation. So the matter will be decided on the facts by the court and jury to decide if the person who acted in self-defence believed it was necessary and their self-defence was proportionate.

Defending yourself and others

Self-defence is more than just a defence when someone has acted in defence of themselves. In the past under common law, self-defence of another was usually only applied to relationships between parent and child and husband/wife or spouse. Many jurisdictions in Australia now allow the use of this defence when you defend another person regardless of relationship.

Defending property

Self-defence in defence of property is available as a defence, but it would need to be proportionate. If someone starts destroying your car with a piece of wood, it wouldn’t be proportionate if you use lethal force. In most Australian jurisdictions, the use of force in defence of property would need to be reasonable and necessary. The use of force that causes death or bodily harm would probably not be considered appropriate in defence of property.

If you have used self-defence to defend yourself, someone else or property, you should seek legal representation to make sure your criminal defence is well presented.

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