Self-defence refers to situations where you were acting to protect yourself, your property, or another person.
If you wish to raise the defence of self-defence, you will have to prove on the balance of probabilities (more than a 50% chance) that:
1. You were acting to protect yourself, your property or another person
You must be able to prove that you were trying to protect yourself or someone else from another person. For example, where someone is attempting to hurt another person and you intervene to protect that person by assaulting the attacker.
You may also raise the defence of self- defence where you act to prevent your property from being taken, damaged or destroyed, or where you act to prevent someone from trespassing on your property.
2. You believed that your actions were reasonable in the circumstances
You must show that you honestly believed that your actions were reasonable in the circumstances.
The court will look at the situation from your perspective – that is, whether you believed that what you were doing was reasonable given the situation.
Even in cases where you mistakenly believed that you had to act in self-defence (for example, where there is a misunderstanding and there is no real threat of actually being hurt), you can still rely on the defence as long as you show that you honestly believed that there was a threat to your safety and that your actions were proportionate to that threat.
However, where you are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs and your level of intoxication causes you to mistakenly believe that you are under threat, you may not be able to raise the defence.
For example, if you are under the influence of drugs which cause you to become so paranoid that you attack someone who is not a real threat, you will not be able to argue that you were acting in self-defence.
If you raise the defence of self-defence, the prosecution will then have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you did not believe that you were acting to defend or protect yourself, or that you did not believe that your actions were reasonable in the circumstances.
If your defence is accepted in court, you will be found ‘not guilty.’