The test to determine whether the force that was used was reasonable or otherwise is subjective, i.e. it depends on the perceptions of the defendant at the time. Perceptions differ from person to person and what may seem as dangerous or imminent to one person may not seem dangerous or imminent to another person. It also depends on a person’s state of mind at the time and a person who has been attacked before or who has been a victim of a previous attack is more likely to perceive a danger as opposed to someone who has not.
British law recognizes this fact and in the United Kingdom, there used to be, I’m not certain if they still exist, support groups who help victims readjust after they’d been subjected to a vicious attack.
As soon as an attack is reported to the London Met Police, the police get in touch with these support groups who then send out a letter inviting the victims to come forward and attend counselling sessions and these sessions help the victim to readjust after being subjected to a brutal attack. The letter is usually sent out within days of the attack being reported.
In R v Gladstone Williams (1984) the appellant saw a young man being subjected to a brutal attack and he rushed to the aid of the young man and hit the attacker when in fact the young man had just committed a mugging and the victim had wrestled him to the ground. The appellant was charged and convicted under s.47 of the Offences Against Person Act (1861) and appealed the conviction.
The appeal was allowed, and the appellant’s conviction was quashed. Whether the defendant’s (appellant’s) actions were reasonable or otherwise is dependent on the defendant’s perceptions and the prosecution have the duty of proving that the defendant’s actions given the circumstances was unlawful. If he (the defendant) was laboring under a mistake of facts than he must be judged according to that mistake and whether the mistake, using the objective test, was reasonable or otherwise.
However, even if the jury came to the conclusion that the mistake was unreasonable, the defendant is still entitled to the defense of self-defense, as long as the defendant genuinely believed that he was in imminent danger and/or he was acting to prevent a crime.
Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward