Self-defence is a complete defence to a criminal charge, which means it leads to a verdict of ‘not guilty’.
The defence is contained in section 418 of the Crimes Act 1900 which provides that you are not criminally responsible for an offence if:
- You believed your conduct was necessary:
- To defend yourself or another person, or
- To prevent the unlawful deprivation of your liberty or another person’s, or
- To protect your property from being taken, destroyed, damaged or interfered with, orTo prevent criminal trespass to your land, or remove a person criminally trespassing, and
- Your conduct was a reasonable response in the circumstances as you perceived them
To rely on self-defence, there must be evidence capable of supporting a reasonable inference that you acted in accordance with the section.
Once self-defence is raised, the prosecution must disprove it ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ if it is unable to do so, you are entitled to an acquittal.
Self-defence is not available where you used force that involved the reckless or intentional infliction of death only to:
- Protect property, or
- Prevent or remove a criminal trespass.
A charge of murder will be reduced to manslaughter if you engaged in ‘excessive self-defence’ which means you:
- Used force that inflicted death, but
- Your conduct was not a reasonable response to the circumstances as you perceived them, although
- You believed it was necessary to defend yourself or another person, or prevent the unlawful deprivation of your liberty or that of another person.