The defence of self-defence may be used to defence a range of criminal offences when protecting yourself, your property, or another person.
In Victoria, self-defence is governed by statute under the Crimes Act 1958. While previously the statutory defence of self-defence was only available for murder and manslaughter, in 2014 the Act was amended to provide a single self-defence provision for all offences.
According to section 322K of the Crimes Act:
A person is not guilty of an offence if the person carries out the conduct constituting the offence in self-defence.
A person carries out conduct in self-defence if:
They believe that the conduct is necessary in self-defence; and
- Their conduct is a reasonable response in the circumstances as the person perceives
For the defence of self-defence to be raised, the accused must successfully prove that they held the genuine belief that their actions were necessary to prevent harm either to themselves or another person in their responsibility, or deprivation of their property. It does not matter what a ‘reasonable person’ might have believed in the circumstances, rather what matters is that the accused honestly believed their actions were necessary, even if that belief was mistaken.
If the court is satisfied that the accused honestly believed their actions were necessary, it must then consider whether their actions were reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances. While this is an objective test, it must take into account the subjective experience of the accused within the context of their circumstances. This includes their personal attributes and history, and how this may have informed their perceptions of the circumstances.
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