What is the law on self-defence in the UK?

In training Krav Maga with us, it is essential that you understand what the UK law on using reasonable force is when it comes to self-defence. Whilst the law allows you to use reasonable force to defend yourself, misuse of this can lead to imprisonment.

Section 3 (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1967 which states that “any person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in preventing a crime or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or of persons unlawfully at large”.

So what does that mean?

This means that you are legally allowed to use reasonable force for the following:

  • To prevent or terminate crime, or to effect or assist in the lawful arrest of an
    offender or suspected offender or person unlawfully at large.
  • To prevent or terminate a breach of peace.
  • To protect themselves or another from unlawful force or unlawful personal harm –
    this is self-defence broadened to cover defensive force in support of another person.
  • To prevent or terminate the unlawful detention of himself or another.
  • To protect property (whether belonging to himself or another) from unlawful
    appropriation destruction or damage.
  • To prevent or terminate a trespass to their person or property.

What does ‘reasonable’ actually mean?

This is very important to understand and can make the difference your act of self-defense to be just that or to be deemed unreasonable, causing you to face imprisonment.

Reasonable force is based on two primary issues: –

  1. the force applied must be necessary (i.e. there was no other option, you or another
    was in imminent danger that was a threat to you or another’s personal safety and
    life).
  2. the force applied must be proportionate (i.e. the force used is in equal relation to
    the amount of harm likely to be suffered by you or another if intervention isn’t
    made).

Important points:

Each incident whereby physical force was used for self-defence purposes is taken by the police on a case by case basis. This means what was deemed as reasonable force used by Mary Smith may differ to John Smith.

Example 1:

Mary Smith is a petite 25 year old woman walking home late at night and is attacked by a 100kg man who is trying to rape her. In defending herself, she kicks the attacker several times to get him off her and runs home.

Example 2:

John Smith large man and is confronted by two other men outside a pub. There is some pushing and shoving. John grabs a bottle and smacks the two men over the head with the bottle.

It is clear that in example 1, Mary’s use of force as reasonable and therefore she was exercising her right to defend herself. The force used was necessary and proportionate to the harm that was to be caused. Whereas in example 2, the use of force is considered unreasonable as John had intentionally picked up a weapon (i.e. the bottle) to attack the two men who were pushing him. The use of the bottle was not proportionate nor necessary in relation to the threat.

How do you implement this in your Krav Maga training?

In Krav Maga, your instructors aim to teach you the worst-case scenario and equip you with both techniques and finishing modes that assume this. However, it is important when training to think about the following:

  • Prevention, de-escalation and timeline – how did you get in that situation in the first
    place? What can be done to prevent it?
  • Finishing modes – when using counter-attacks, when do you stop? Is your attacker
    still aggressive? Practice different finishing modes based on how you perceive or
    imagine your attacker to behave.
  • Ask questions – your instructors are here to help you understand the problem, how
    to prevent it, solve it whilst keeping you safe and within the confines of the UK law.
    • Reference Text – Mark Dawes NFPS Ltd