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You and The Law

Self Defence

The most important point to remember in the use of self-defence is to ask if what you are doing is reasonable.

The Criminal Law Act 1967, says that you may use reasonable force depending on the circumstances, to prevent crime or arrest an offender.

If you are attacked you may defend yourself, but you may only do what is reasonably necessary. You are entitled to defend your family, servant, master, and even a stranger and his property, but where a person is merely trespassing without using force, the trespasser must be requested to leave before hands are laid on him and no more force than is necessary may be used to remove him.

In the case of self-defence it is also good advice for you to show that you did not want to fight. In most circumstances you must show that you are prepared to withdraw from the situation.

The Use of Barbed Wire

Barbed wire may be used to defend your property, but the law puts certain restrictions on its use.

Section 164 Highways Act 1980, says that where, on land adjoining a highway, there is a fence made with barbed wire in or on it and the wire is a nuisance to the highway, a notice may be issued by the Local Authority for the nuisance to be removed.

Being a nuisance means that it is likely to cause injury to people or animals using the highway.

In practice, most Local Authority Highways Departments usually consider that barbed wire lower than eight feet from the ground could be a nuisance to highway users.

The term "Barbed Wire" means anything with spikes or jagged projections, so would also include the wooden carpet gripper strips which have nails sticking up through the wood.

If the barbed wire is not adjoining the highway and an injury results, you could still be faced with a claim for damages under the Occupier Liability Acts. Occupiers of premises have a duty of care, to people entering or using their premises. This duty even extends to trespassers, although it is not as extensive as it is to people lawfully using or visiting the premises. So a burglar, who could not be aware that barbed wire was on top of a fence and injured himself on it, could have a claim against you despite the fact that he was a trespasser.

If you wish to have some sort of barbed wire protecting your property, it may be a good idea to check with your home insurance company that they would cover you in the event of a person claiming for an injury caused. It is for these reasons that most residents prefer to use Mother Nature's own barbed wire, a prickly bush, climbing rose or similar. A separate Fact Sheet gives advice on suitable prickly plants.

Reproduced by kind permission of the South Trafford Crime Prevention Panel

Author: PC Chris Mackenzie, Assistant Force CSO, GMP
Copyright 1995, Greater Manchester Police

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