Crime CXXIV – Self Defense XIV

S.76 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act of 2008, does not change the law on self-defense or its application and merely codifies the principles that have been established at common law.

In R v McGrath (2010) the defendant and the victim were out drinking celebrating their “A” levels results and later they moved on to the defendant’s flat. The celebrations turned sour and an argument ensued. The argument got heated and according to the defendant the victim attacked her physically, spit at her and bit her and the defendant grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed the victim. The knife went through the victim’s heart and he died. The defendant was arrested and tried and at her trial, she claimed, self-defense or that she was merely reacting, instinctively, to the attack.

The trial judge directed the jury on mistaken belief and on s.76 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act of 2008 and the jury found the defendant not guilty on the count of murder but guilty instead on the count of manslaughter. The defendant appealed on the grounds that mistaken belief was a misdirection when it fact there was no mistake and the defendant was indeed being attacked.

The appeal was dismissed. While the direction on mistaken belief should be avoided when the victim claims that he or she was being attacked, that in itself was not sufficient to make the conviction unsound. On s.76 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act of 2008, it does not alter the law and the law remains as it is. S.76 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act is not exhaustive and whether the defendant acted in self-defense or otherwise depends on the facts.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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