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Can you (legally) defend yourself in Britain?

Discussion in 'Serious' started by boiled_elephant, 28 Aug 2012.

  1. boiled_elephant

    boiled_elephant Merom Celeron 4 lyfe

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    I've found myself in a few situations now where I'd have liked to defend myself from minor sorts of attack - a slap or punch, being spat on, that sort of thing. (It just happens a lot in the Grimsby area.) I'm at a point now, after karate and bits of sports and activities, where I easily could defend myself but still don't dare to for fear of the legal ramifications.

    It's very hard to defend yourself without injuring someone. Even the simple act of tripping someone and pushing them to the ground can easily go wrong and end up fracturing their skull or putting them in a coma, or simply breaking their nose or arm (which'll still place you on the losing side in court, unless they were provably trying to kill you). When I got to thinking about it, I couldn't think of many effective ways to defend that weren't legally very risky - so, for now, I've just become a good diplomat, but I still end up taking the odd punch or shove, which is unpleasant and better avoided (people tend to make assumptions about you when you show up for work with a black eye, even if you tell them it wasn't your fault).

    My karate dojo taught a lot of horrible things that clearly wouldn't have been legal if actually used (part of the reason I left), and when I asked the sensei what the point was of knowing patently illegal and potentially lethal techniques, he simply replied, "good question. There is that risk. But if it's to defend your family, when the time comes, you'll use it anyway. It's worth it, because it works."

    That seemed to be the general outlook of most people there: if it protects me and mine, it's worth the legal risks. This is a stupid attitude, in my opinion, and I'm sure they only held it so complacently because none of them had ever been to prison.

    Thoughts? How would you defend yourself? What would you risk doing, and how would the courts react?
     
  2. Archtronics

    Archtronics Minimodder

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    Tbh its a tricky one to give a answer to as each situation is different.

    First off is there is a real threat to your life I would use as much force necessary to preserve your life, I would much rather come out of it alive and facing a court battle than dead.

    In a general fight I would say first and for most give up any ego's and run away.

    If you can't escape stupid as this sounds don't attack unless attacked just set yourself up in a defensive position and shout at the attacker. Then try to disarm and escape obvously with your karate you know this, If it escalates ie becomes life threatening find some kind of weapon key etcs worry about police later.
     
  3. Parge

    Parge the worst Super Moderator

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    Its my understanding that self defence is absolutely fine as long as 'reasonable force' is used. So if someone were to spit on you, it would be unreasonable to smash their face into the kerb with a sledgehammer, but if someone came at you with a grenade launcher and your life was at risk you could do whatever the hell you wanted to restrain them/prevent them from killing you.

    Speaking to my housemate (a police officer) he says that in cases where a reasonable young man such as yourself finds himself in a situation where he has to defend himself, its very rare that a jury or judge would side with some street thug.

    Basically, do what you have to do to defend yourself given the circumstance, but don't go overboard - not always an easy call to make in a high pressure situation.
     
  4. Zoon

    Zoon Hunting Wabbits since the 80s

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    As a first thought, maybe you might want to give Aikido or even Judo a go. Aikido has no 'attacks' but teaches throws, holds, and immobilisation techniques. Judo teaches a lot of similar throws, holds and immobilisation techniques, but also has attacks.

    Faced with someone intent on causing me damage I would rather be going in the opposite direction, but having the knowledge that I could get them on the floor and keep them there long enough for the door man to get him out of the way without causing injury makes me feel more confident.

    As for the legal side of things - I guess that depends on the magnitude. You'd get manslaughter for killing someone who was trying to kill you I guess. There's no real self defence in the UK that I'm aware of.

    Dial it down a notch and some drunk idiot in the pub gets a bit rowdy with you - as long as you show restraint, which is more important as you gain a martial art proficiency since you could cause someone real damage as you found out, then as long as they threw the first punch it'd generally be them in trouble as the instigator of the attack and might see them up for Affray, GBH or ABH depending how far it actually went before you got him to the floor and had him pinned.
     
  5. 3lusive

    3lusive Minimodder

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    http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/s_to_u/self_defence/#Guidance

    You can use reasonable force, as Parge stated, and reasonable force is a partially subjective thing - it's what a 'reasonable' person would deem as reasonable (or what a UK jury would regard as reasonable).

    In other words, no-one can say for certain what would be deemed unreasonable unless it was brought before a court of law, except for general principles like don't attack someone if you've knocked them unconscious etc. Different juries will tolerate different levels of force though.
     
  6. VipersGratitude

    VipersGratitude Multimodder

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    First thing you should do is run.

    If you can't run find a recess. 1) You can't be caught off-guard from behind. 2) If it does go to court it makes it difficult to them to accuse you of being the aggressor.
     
  7. Blazza181

    Blazza181 SVM PLACENTA CASEI

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    Ok, this is where my Law A level finally comes in handy.

    If you ended up in court, the jury would be asked two questions:
    a) Was the force necessary?
    b) Was the force reasonable?

    In regards to a), this is a subjective question. It depends on whether (the jury believes that) the defendant honestly believed that the force was necessary. For it to be necessary, it must be used "to resist, repel or ward off an unjust immediate attack." The defendant does not have to be attacked first, as in Bird, where a girl was pressed against a wall (which is admittedly battery) by a person who was known to be violent, and so in self defence she took a beer glass and took out his eye. Gruesome, I know.

    Also, the force can be seen as necessary if the defendant genuinely believed that in certain circumstance, requiring force, existed, and in R v Gladstone Williams, where a man saw someone attacking a youth. What he didn't know was that this youth had just mugged a lady, and the victim had detained him. He honestly believed that the youth was being attacked by the victim, and so his force was "necessary", according to him. However, the law looks less kindly on where such mistakes are made if the defendant was drunk, rejecting the defence of self-defence.

    The act CANNOT be vengeful or retaliatory, as occurred in R V Clegg, where an officer in Northern Ireland fired at a car speeding towards his checkpoint. The last bullet fired killed a passenger, but he had fired thisafter they had gone through the checkpoint, thus the force was no longer necessary. A similar example was R v Martin, where a man fired his shotgun at people who had just raided his house, and were leaving, so the threat had passed.

    In regards to b), this is an objective test - i.e. the jury decides if the force was reasonable. R v Palmer dictates that they should consider: the nature and degree of the force used, the gravity of the crime or evil to be prevented, the relative strength of the parties concerned and the number of people involved.

    The law does not require proportionate force - merely force which is seen as necessary to repel an attack, as also seen in Martin. Of course, this leads to the major issue of what is reasonable. If I were you, try not to go to near the unreasonable line.

    Also, as per Attorney-General's Reference (No. 6 of 1980), the unlawfulness cannot be negated by saying the other party consented to the fight.

    So, when it comes to self defence, only do it if necessary, refrain from using excessive attacks (just try to throw them off), refrain from getting into a fight, and use minimal force.
     
    boiled_elephant likes this.
  8. Comfyasabadger

    Comfyasabadger What's a Dremel?

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    When I was a pub manager we would use the Flat palm to the face technique.

    On CCtv it looks like you are holding out your hands to stop the chav.

    Whereas in reality you are spouting insults about his mother :D:thumb:
     
  9. Cutter

    Cutter What's a Dremel?

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    The Tony Martin case is unusual though. Initially he was convicted of murder, but this was reduced to manslaughter on appeal.

    Reading the case reports, this was basically because the incident happende on his farm, in a rural, out of the way place. He was therefore effectively alone and far from police assistance. He had also been repeatedly burgled and threatened and it was this factor which allowed his sentence to be reduced on appeal.

    See http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/tonymartin

    There have been a spate of recent incidents in Manchester where householders have stabbed and wounded/killed burglars, and not been convicted of anything, as it was held they had been acting in self defence.

    See eg: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-15211250

    My own view is aligned with that of Archtronics', and I think what he says makes the most sense.

    i.e. ignore the legalities and the fine print.

    If there is a threat to your life, that of your spouse/partner or your kids, and you can't get away, do everything possible to protect you and yours, including deadly force. Don't hold back from going for eyes/balls/throat if you have to. Better alive to face a court battle than dead in the gutter.

    Otherwise, if you can get away, do so. No shame in keeping a face from a knife.
     
    boiled_elephant likes this.
  10. Mr Happy

    Mr Happy 4 8 15 16 23 42

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    I would be very wary of using force on the streets against street idiots, for the sole reason that they could all too easily be carrying a knife or other weapon, but the little light i can share on this topic is as follows

    I am sometimes expected to "use force" against others in my current job, it is no secret that i work for the prison service

    Some of the guidelines given are

    Reasonable force (like Parge said)
    No more force than is necessary

    So, for example, if a prisoner is in my personal space threatening or being abusive i am allowed to openly handed push him back away from me (using force) to gain space

    If a prisoner is attacking me by any means i can justifiably punch him back, but the minute he stops i would have to stop, if i carried on i would be open to prosecution because i used more force than necessary

    A very strange situation to be in but defending yourself will come down to using as little force as possible

    P.S. If you do decide to punch a dirty chav

    1. make sure his mates are not close by
    2. You can run quicker (just in case)
     
  11. GMC

    GMC Minimodder

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    Worth also remembering that the 'threat' is also subject to the concept of reasonable. i.e. is it reasonable to perceive the level of threat and danger described by the accused?
    That must be established before you can explore whether or not the force applied is reasonable.

    Further, the force applied within reason will also be subject to the judicial system perception of your ability to assess the threat and consciously determine and control your response. e.g. a healthy strapping male will notionally be expected to have a less severe fear response than someone of slighter physical stature. Consequently a disabling response will be more likely considered reasonable from someone lacking physical strength or training to subdue their opponent.

    Sad to say but I have always felt that my own martial arts experience would count against me - in no small part from a concern that people who do not have that training would not fully understand the role of muscle memory and the degree to which it works with instinct to make a natural flow of certain blocks, strikes, kicks etc. Based on body position at the end of each action, and the relative position of the threat/threats.

    Any familiarity which I once had with adrenaline rushes has long since evaporated now. I'd be fight or flight as much as anyone but my body remembers flow and muscles remember movement, albeit with a little less fitness, flexibility, and most importantly, control.

    In essence though I agree with your sensei. Assuming defence of me and mine, first line of defence is my mouth, talk your way out. Second line is turn the other cheek. Third is be ready to block first. Final line after all those is put down with minimum time or fuss but I would avoid the soft spots unless weapons are present - that only needs an opponent to get a little bit lucky so all bets are off then. Down quickly by whatever means necessary.
     
  12. adidan

    adidan Guesswork is still work

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    Looks like some martial arts people had a look into this on this forum clicky, here is a paste of what the guy found relating to self defence.

    It's always been pretty vague as an one person's interpretation of 'reasonable force' will differ from anothers. That said the law pretty much states you can use whatever force necessary to prevent crime and/or for self defence and that you can actually be the first to strike a blow.
     
  13. Blazza181

    Blazza181 SVM PLACENTA CASEI

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    Just about Tony Martin, his sentence was reduced not due to the defence of Self-defence, which would result in a verdict of not guilty, and so he would be aquitted, but he claimed the partial defence of diminished responsibility. This is known to be a particularly flexible defence, being accepted on the flimsiest of evidence - i.e. the judges most likely felt that he did not deserve a life sentence, and so gave him a shorter sentence by accepting the partial defence.

    Another key issue is how they were leaving, so the jury did not see the force as necessary.

    My advice - use only the force needed to repel the attack. A little bit more may be accepted, kicking the **** out of someone won't be accepted.

    Sent from my Orange San Francisco using Tapatalk

    EDIT: The courts don't have too positive a view to prevention of damage to property. Some force is acceptable, any harm is a bit of a dangerous line to take.
     
    Last edited: 28 Aug 2012
  14. adidan

    adidan Guesswork is still work

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    It is a minefield though.

    A lad who was a friend of mine at primary school suffered because of the ambiguity. Some drunk bloke started getting aggressive towards him and his gf and he used what he thought was 'reasonable force' to get him to back off. The drunk bloke fell funny, as he was drunk, fell and broke his arm.

    The Judge decided, even with the circumstances and that it was his first offence having never been in trouble, that he should go down for 6 months. That destroyed him, losing his job and his freedom and he got hooked on heroin in prison and that was the end of his future, being in and out of prison because of drugs ever since.

    It does need more clarification as Judges can see the same situation very differently.
     
  15. Parge

    Parge the worst Super Moderator

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    I recommend anyone wanting to effectively defend themselves to sack off any traditional martial arts and pick up Krav Maga – no stupid forms (kata) or spinning around with sticks or nunchucks – just real life and usuable self defence and attacks designed to cause maximum damage, combined with decent levels of fitness.
     
  16. Elton

    Elton Officially a Whisky Nerd

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    Judo and Akido are much more effective and less inclined to be intended to injure. At any rate, Krav isn't a bad martial art, but it really does raise some eyebrows as there are some ridiculously lethal moves.
     
  17. Pookie

    Pookie So this is permanence, love's shattered pride.

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    I attend Kenpo classes, and we are taught to always avoid using force and even leg it if possible. But if needed we are trained to disabe a person(s) very quickly and if im honest brutally.

    Thankfully I have never needed to defend myself but if it came down to it and i was defending myself, my wife, and my 3 year old daughter, I would rather spend several years or the rest of my life behind bars knowing they were safe and well than spend the rest of my life kneeling in front of 2 graves.
     
  18. Nexxo

    Nexxo * Prefab Sprout – The King of Rock 'n' Roll

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    Krav Maga = Jew Jitsu? :p

    (Sorry, but I saw the opening and had to take the shot...)
     
  19. Blazza181

    Blazza181 SVM PLACENTA CASEI

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    Definitely, there certainly are issues over the definition of reasonable force, as it is an objective test for the jury to consider - but the jury changes from place to place.

    There is a piece of statute which says that if, in the heat of the moment, a person honestly and instinctively felt that the force was necessary, then it is likely to be reasonable. Of course, that adds a dash of subjectivity to it, which sort of works in your favour (and goes against what it said in the rest of the chapter. :wallbash:).

    [​IMG]

    I never thought I'd say that to Nexxo.
     
  20. MiNiMaL_FuSS

    MiNiMaL_FuSS ƬӇЄƦЄ ƁЄ ƇƠƜƧ ӇЄƦЄ.

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    Legally; reasonable force is usable for self-defence.

    Realistically; if somebody has assaulted you, it's very unlikely they are going to report your defence to the police, assuming you don't actually do any serious damage. Also, let's be honest, if it's a minor incident it's very unlikely the police would be interested anyway...I attend a quarterly briefing on the violence in my town and get to see the CCTV footage, it's unprovoked or serious violence the police are after, not a couple of drunks giving each other a couple of minor slaps.

    Seriously; take it on the chin, judge the person that's offended you...pushing somebody away and politely telling them not to be an ass is usually enough...but your defence may also escalate the situation which is going to end badly.
     

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