Self defence

Topics: Criminal law, Common law, Law Pages: 33 (12925 words) Published: February 16, 2014
table of contents

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In the state of nature it was the survival of the fittest, the principle of self-preservation guiding much of human behaviour. A man could kill another in self-defence, this being an inherent natural right. This was almost an unrestricted right that the ‘Law of Nature’ gave to each individual. Today, the liberal democratic state still recognises this inalienable right of an individual to protect himself and his property in the face of danger.1 This departs from the monopoly over violence which the state has retained in the sense that under every other circumstance, it is the state alone that is justified in using force, or punishing the wrongdoer.2 The law relating to self-defence is thus a mere extension of the principle of necessity, the test for a reasonable exercise of self-defence being a clear and present danger, the imminence of harm to either person or property, and the consequent necessity to protect the self or one’s property. This is in consonance with a basic aim of criminal law which is to safeguard conduct that is without fault from condemnation as criminal.3 The right of self-defence is one which has come down from the ancient law-givers. Manu enjoined to resort to arms in self-defence4 and the root of this concept may be found even in Anglo-American jurisprudence.5 It is thus an indefeasible right which may be altered, but can never be abrogated. Nature prompts a man who is struck to resist, and he is...

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