Denials of an offence and General defences


  •      Actus reus + mens rea – defences = conviction


Denials of offending:


  •      Where D did not complete the actus reus or mens rea for several reasons. For example:


  • “I wasn’t there” = No actus reus
  • “It was an accident” = No mens rea
  • “I was so drunk I didn’t know what I was doing” = no mens rea
  • “I was covered in a swarm of bees and couldn’t control my movements” = no actus reus and no mens rea
  • “I thought I was chopping down a tree, but it was a person” = no mens rea


General Theory of Defences


  •      Justification – g. D did commit the offence (actus reus + mens rea) but should be acquitted as D did “the right thing”. (Self-defence, Necessity)


  •     Excuse: g. D did commit the offence (actus + mens rea) but it would be unfair to punish D. (Duress)


  •      Exemptions: g. D did commit the offence (actus reus + mens rea) but lacked capacity as D was less than 10 years old or “insane”. (Infancy, Insanity)




  •     Duress by threat: D commits a crime due to threat by a person that he (D), or someone else will be killed or seriously hurt.


  •     Duress of circumstances: This is similar to duress. However, D is not threatened by a person.


The Private (Self-defence) and Public defences


  •     The defendant has the defence to any crime involving force against the person or property committed in order to protect legitimate interests.


1) Private: Acting to protect oneself, others, or property. (Common law + s.76 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008).


2) Public: Acting in prevention of crime or making arrest. (s.3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 + s.76 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008)



Scope of the defences


Stage 1: Was the use of any force necessary?


Stage 2: Was the amount of force used reasonable?



Can D use pre-emptive force to avoid harm? If so, must the attack be imminent?


  •      Defences do NOT rule out pre-emptive force. However, imminence is important for the force to be deemed necessary.



Must D try to retreat from the threat before he can use the defence?


  •      There is no strict duty to retreat. However, the force must be necessary.


What if D provoked the attack from V and then defended himself against V?


  •      Defence is only ruled out where the defendant has manufactured the situation in order to use self-defence.


Relevant case law:


Blake v DPP [1993] Crim LR 586


Hatton [2006] 1 Cr App R 16


Devlin v Armstrong [1971]


Martin [2002] Crim LR 136


R v Dudley and Stephens (1884) 14 QBD 273


R v Rashford [2005] EWCA Crim 3377