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Self Defence

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:

  1. 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
  1. 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:

  1. Protect property, or
  2. 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:

  1. Used force that inflicted death, but
  2. Your conduct was not a reasonable response as you perceived them and you believed your conduct was necessary to:
  3. Defend yourself or another person, or
  4. To prevent the unlawful deprivation of your liberty or another person’s

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