Self-defence, or defence of another, is available as a defence to a charge of obstructing a police officer under s.89(2) of the Police Act 1996.
The appellant was convicted of obstructing a police officer. The facts were that the appellant was driving a car which he did not have valid insurance to drive. He was pulled over by the police, whom he did not believe to be genuine officers, despite them being in uniform. The officers stated they would detain the car and the appellant's mother initially took the keys out of the ignition but then put them back in as if she were to drive off. One of the officers then put a hand on the arm of the appellant's mother, who screamed out loudly. In reaction to this the appellant attempted to pull the officer away as he was alarmed at what was happening.
The appellant alleged that he had acted in self-defence in trying to pull the officer away. The Crown Court found that the appellant's actions were not "unreasonable" but that the defence of self-defence was not available. The Court also stated that if the defence had been available as a matter of law it would have allowed the appeal.
It was argued that the Crown Court erred in law in holding that the defence was not available. It would be contrary to principle that self-defence would be available to a charge of assault but not of obstruction, given the fact that certain factual scenarios may involve actions which could be charged as either or both.
The respondent argued that the true principle was in fact that a defendant could not rely on self-defence where the force used by the complainant was lawful, regardless of whether the defendant believed it to be lawful or not.
Held: It was found that self-defence is a general defence, which unlike other defences only available to specific offences, should be available for the offence of obstructing a constable. The judgement also appears to suggest (albeit obiter) that it could be available even in cases without force.
There is no authority to support the view which was taken by the Crown Court. The case referred to by the Crown Court of Kenlin v Gardiner  2 Q.B. 510 was concerned with an offence of assaulting a police constable in the execution of his duty. It was held that there had been a technical assault by the police officer who had taken hold of one of the boys' arms and therefore self-defence was available to them.
However, the High Court in this case found that as Kenlin v Gardiner was not concerned with the offence of obstructing a police officer and further it was a case where self-defence was made out, it could not support the Crown Court's view. The respondent's new submission was rejected.
The findings of fact in relation to the case was that the appellant thought his mother was being assaulted, and he intended to prevent that taking place and that on the facts, as he believed them to, his response was not unreasonable. Therefore, the defence should have been available to him.
Appeal allowed and conviction quashed.
20 March 2018