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Self-defence, duress and necessity are all ‘proper’ defences to crimes. Once the actus reus and mens rea¬†of an offence have been proven by the prosecution, if a defendant can prove one of the below defences, he will escape liability.

Self-defence

Section 76 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act (CRIMJIM) 2008 merges several common law defences: the use of reasonable force to prevent crime, common law self-defence and common law protection of property. Self-defence allows a defendant to be excused from liability where he uses reasonable force against another person where that act would normally constitute an offence. S 76(1) provides that the section is to be used in assessing whether the force was reasonable or not. When a jury assesses a self-defence, they must decide whether the force used by a defendant was objectively reasonable in the circumstances as they were believed by the defendant.

The basics

S 76(3) provides that reasonableness is to be assessed in the circumstances as the defendant (subjectively) believed them to be. This subsection is based on Beckford v R [1988], which found that if a defendant could avoid an offence of rape with an honest belief in consent, a police officer should also be able to get away with shooting an unarmed man with the honest belief that he was armed. However, DPP v Morgan [1975], the authority for subjective consent, has now been overruled by the Sexual Offences Act 2003...

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