Self-Defence Against Police?

London: It is settled law in the UK that anybody who is physically attacked or anticipates an immediate attack may use such force as they deem necessary and reasonable in the circumstances to defend themselves. There is no general duty to retreat, though if escape from attack was easily possible and a reasonable option, courts will take this into account. But what can you do if your attacker is a police officer, like PC Charlie Harrison, who was recently convicted of assaulting an innocent man in front of his children, likely motivated by racial prejudice? The short answer, unfortunately, is not much. The theory is that police will be law-abiding and only use their powers when justified, considering necessity, reasonability and proportionality. If police identify themselves as law enforcement to you and give you a lawful verbal order or use physical force to address whatever it is they need from you, you are expected to comply, even if you believe police made the wrong decision, apply force unnecessarily or act in bad faith.

A decision of “misuse of powers”, “wrongful detention/arrest” or “unlawful use of force” is for a court to make when you complain about your treatment. This is because both you and the police are subject to the law and the decision whether the use of force was ultimately lawful is neither for you nor the police to determine. In practice, this is less than ideal, especially as the damage from the police action is already done. Pursuing a complaint is also costly and police officers are much better equipped to navigate the judicial process to their advantage than you are.

Read more: Benjamin Bestgen, Scottish Legal News,

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