Tracey Riddell

Self-defence can be a defence to dangerous driving, in rare circumstances

The Appellant was convicted after trial on a count of making off without payment and a count of dangerous driving. The jury was discharged from returning a verdict on a count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The jury were not directed that self-defence was a defence to the dangerous driving count, and were only directed it was a defence to ABH, the defence on dangerous driving was duress of circumstances. The main ground of appeal is that they ought to have been directed, on the facts, to also consider self-defence for the dangerous driving count.

The complainant was a mini-cab driver who had driven the Appellant to her home address and it was at the point of drop off that the making off without payment occurred. The complainant saw the Appellant entering a vehicle and gave chase wanting to obtain payment. At one point the cars briefly collided and she overtook him. This chase continued for a while until he stopped his vehicle in front of hers, alighted and stood in front of her car. The Appellant was then observed edging the vehicle forward striking the complainant several times in the knees. The complainant then sat on the bonnet of the car and the Appellant accelerated away causing him to fall off.

In her evidence, the Appellant said that she felt very scared of the complainant whom she had not recognised as the mini-cab driver. She explained that, in an attempt to get away from him, she tried to avoid him and move around him, but he jumped on the bonnet.


There is a clear distinction between self-defence and duress of circumstances. Duress requires reasonableness as to the belief held, which is not a requirement where self-defence is concerned. Self-defence ordinarily arises where a person uses force to meet actual or perceived force or a threat of force. Although dangerous driving does not itself convey the use of force, the alleged facts relating to the charge may be such that force, through use of a vehicle, has indeed been applied in response to threatened or actual force. In the majority of driving cases self-defence cannot arise because no force is being used by the driver to meet any actual or threatened force.

While it is likely to be a rare case, self-defence is in principle available as a defence to dangerous driving. However, its availability will depend entirely on the use of force involved in the driving by reference to the particular circumstances of the case.

In this case self-defence ought to have been left to the jury, nevertheless in in all the circumstances of the case, the verdict remains safe and the appeal against conviction is dismissed.


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