In Beckford v R (1988) the police received a phone call from someone claiming to be the victim’s sister stating that the victim was armed with a gun and was holding his mother hostage. The police in response sent an armed unit to investigate and as the police officers entered the house, the defendant saw someone running out the back door.
The defendant followed, and the victim turned around holding what appeared to be a gun and pointed it at him. The defendant retaliated by opening fire and the victim was killed. As it turned out the victim was not holding a gun and no gun was ever found. The defendant was charged with murder.
At the trial, the judge directed the jury that the defendant in instances of self-defense is only entitled to use reasonable force as opposed to excessive force and if the force that is used is excessive then the defendant can be convicted for murder. The jury found that the force that was used was excessive and accordingly convicted the defendant for murder.
The defendant appealed. The appeal was allowed and the conviction was quashed, and it was decided that the jury were misdirected. The defendant in cases of self-defense is entitled to use as much force as he or she honestly believes is appropriate in the given circumstances. In this particular instance because the defendant honestly believed that the victim was holding a gun he was deemed to be acting in self-defense when he opened fire and therefore adjudged to be not guilty.
Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward