Ninh explains, the UK Laws on Self Defence
So you’re in the UK and you’ve just been arrested for either hitting somebody, bashing
someone on the head with a wooden leg, or shot a leprechaun to death … and you want
to know if you can use ‘self defence’ as a way to avoid prosecution.
This video explains what the UK laws are regarding self defence, and if you can even argue self
defence in a British court of law. Before I begin though, I’d just like to
say that this video is for educational or entertainment purposes only, and is not a
substitute for a legally licensed professional. If you are in trouble with the law or you
think you’re in trouble, please hire a lawyer! So what is the law exactly?
Without going to all the technicalities, the law here in the UK dictates that…
You may only use Reasonable Force to prevent imminent danger and any further harm or injury.
You may use self defense to defend yourself,
someone else who is in imminent danger, your property,
prevent a crime or in a lawful arrest situation. Now notice the key words in the description,
because it’s these key words that will determine whether you escape prosecution or not. What is imminent danger?
Imminent danger generally refers to a threat to the safety of yourself, someone else or
your property. Whether you actually are in danger or not
is irrelevant at this point, the key thing is that you must believe that you were in
imminent danger. If you ever admit that you didn’t feel like
you weren’t in danger – you’ll most likely be prosecuted.
Let’s say that someone is brandishing a glass bottle in your general direction. You
can defend yourself at this point if you believe that the glass bottle will cause you or someone
else harm. If he’s on the ground and you then proceed to stamp him in the groin 17
times, this is not self defense, as the danger had passed when the drunk fell to the floor.
The prosecutor will also ask if you could have used a more peaceful resolution, such
as running away, and if you ever say yes, you can’t argue self defence either.
You can only argue self defense if you genuinely believe that you had no other choice.
Contrary to popular belief – you don’t have to wait to be attacked first. You can
issue a pre-emptive strike if you believe that it will avert danger to yourself or someone
you’re defending. You must however, always use reasonable force. So what’s reasonable force?
There is no legal definition of ‘reasonable force’ as this varies from case to case.
But in general, it refers to the most proportionate and least harmful response to the danger in
question. You also have to apply common sense to any case.
If someone tries to choke you to death and you poke him in the eye to get him off you,
that is deemed to be a proportionate response to the threat and therefore would be grounds
for self defense. If someone calls you a ‘popinjay’ and
you go and poke him in the eye, this is NOT a proportionate response and you can’t argue
self defense. You are therefore guilty of assault.
If a drunk tries to rip your clothes off and you knee him in the crotch, this would be
reasonable. If a drunk tries to rip your clothes off and
you then stab him 27 times, this would not be reasonable.
In any trial, it will be up to the jury to determine what’s ‘reasonable’ given
the circumstances, as you will always argue that what you did was ‘reasonable’. I just hit someone with an object, can I argue
self defense? The answer: it depends.
When you start using objects to defend yourself, the odds tilt towards you being prosecuted
and here’s why. In the UK – any object acquired for the
sole intention to cause harm can be classed as an offensive weapon.
Let’s say you’re in bed and someone comes in and tries to rape you.
You pick up the nearest thing you have (which happens to be a table lamp) and bash him over
the head with it. You can argue in court that you did not buy the table lamp for the sole
purpose of hitting a rapist over the head with. You bought the table lamp as a table
lamp and that you had no choice but to defend yourself with it. This is good grounds for
using an object in self defense. If however, you keep a baseball bat next to
your bed and a rapist comes in and you bashed him across the head with it, and you tell
the prosecutor that you keep a bat next to your bed just in case someone breaks into
your house – congratulations, you’re going to prison.
You’ve just admitted to buying an object for the sole intention of causing harm, and
therefore it’s now classed as an offensive weapon.
The best response if you get asked this question is … I play baseball. I just shot a guy with a gun. Can I still
argue self defense? When guns are involved, you REALLY tip the
balance in favour of prosecution. In the UK – where gun laws are extremely
strict, you generally have no good reason for having a gun in your possession in the
first place, let alone using it to defend yourself.
If you’re not licensed to have that particular gun, or you used an illegal gun to shoot someone
with, it’s almost certainly prison for you. If you are licensed to have that gun, the
prosecutor will ask you what you were doing with that gun when you used it in self defense,
and there’s only a handful of scenarios where you can escape prosecution here. And
even then, it’s up to the jury to decide whether you lawfully used it to defend yourself
or not. So to summarise.
If you were defending yourself, someone else, your property or preventing a crime
AND there was imminent danger AND there was no other peaceful resolution
AND you used reasonable force AND if you used an object, you did not buy
it for the sole intention of causing harm Then you may just about have grounds for arguing
self defense to avoid prosecution. Remember, this varies from case to case and
I strongly recommend that you consult a lawyer for your exact circumstances. I’ve seen
thugs people shoot someone dead and get away with it, and I’ve also seen grannies hitting
robbers with handbags that got prosecuted for it. So always consult a legal professional.
If you have found this video at all helpful or entertaining, please like, comment, share
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Remember, if you’re in trouble with the law or you think you’re in trouble, please
hire a lawyer! Ninh Ly, www.ninh.co.uk, @NinhLyUK