Use of force and the law

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Understanding the Use of Force in Conflict Resolution

Knowing When to Employ Force: Last Resort Decision

When all other avenues of de-escalation, diffusion, and calming have been exhausted, and no other approaches are viable, the decision to use force must be made:

The Use of Force should only be a final recourse and is not suitable for behaviour management strategies. The focus should remain on handling incidents and behaviour through non-physical, non-threatening, and aggression-free methods. Physical intervention is to be contemplated solely to control situations where imminent danger to individuals, staff, or others is involved.

Legal Framework and Principles

Understanding the legal framework and key principles surrounding the use of force:

According to current law, individuals will not face prosecution if they injure or even kill someone while defending themselves or preventing a crime, provided their actions were Reasonable in the Circumstances. Utilising physical force should be an absolute last resort in conflict management.

Physical force must only be employed for its lawful purpose and not for purposes such as revenge, retaliation, retribution, or teaching lessons.

Section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 stipulates:

"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 of persons unlawfully at large."

The Notions of Necessity and Proportionality

Exploring the core concepts of necessity and proportionality in the use of force:

Necessary: In moments of unexpected distress, a person acting in self-defence may not accurately gauge the exact extent of required defensive action. A jury might consider a person's instinctive and honest actions in the face of an attack as evidence of reasonable defensive action. Force used against a person may be legally justified or excused if it safeguards specific public or private interests.

Proportionate: The standard of proportionality relates to what is reasonably commensurate with the potential harm faced by the defendant or the likely consequences of not intervening forcefully.

Previously, the duty to retreat was a significant aspect of self-defence under common law. This duty, while no longer explicitly defined, has evolved into a responsibility to demonstrate an unwillingness to fight, temporise, disengage, and possibly withdraw physically.

Conclusion: Balancing Self-Defence and Responsibility

Central to the use of force is the distinction between acting in self-defence versus revenge or retaliation. Demonstrating a willingness to retreat or disengage can negate claims of revenge, highlighting the complex interplay between self-preservation and responsible conduct.