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Common law recognises that there are many circumstances in which one person may use force upon another without committing a crime (e.g. sporting contests). Included in common law is a person’s right to protect themselves from attack and to act in the defence of others.  If no more force is used than is reasonable to repel the attack, such force is not unlawful and no crime is committed. Furthermore, a person about to be attacked does not have to wait for his or her assailant to strike the first blow. Certain circumstances may justify you making the first strike.

These laws are interpreted according to the following guidelines:

Criminal Law Act 1967 states a person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime, or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or persons unlawfully at large.’  The keyword in this legislation is ‘reasonable’ and the issue of reasonableness is a question of fact to be decided in each individual case.  Remember: going too far is a criminal offence.