The limits of self-defence – Ukraine

Hmmmmm.

Now when it comes to the right to self defence this is not a contentious issue for most people – myself included – however, I have misgivings over the wording of the statement accompanying a new proposed change to the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

Mykola Katerynchuk, leader of the European Party of Ukraine, on 19th July registered an amendment to Article 36 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine – Bill 2621A to be precise.

Mr Katerynchuk stated, “Currently, the law-abiding citizen of Ukraine has limited” limits of self-defense.  However, the Criminal Code does not consider that the criminals are not limited by anything”  – Fair enough!

Going on to say, “This bill offers a once and for all give citizens the right to protect their lives and the lives of their loved ones, as well as the third party of any criminal assault parties. This practice takes place in the U.S., UK and several other countries. In this case, the person to defend their property, provided not only the right to use a simple violence against a person enters his home or property, but also the so-called “deadly violence”, ie use a weapon against the person. This practice seems appropriate to extend and Ukraine.”

I am not going to comment upon the US as I am not a US citizen, am not familiar enough with US law or judicial sentencing results – and quite frankly being British permanently living in Ukraine, I don’t care how the USA handles such issues.

I am however going to comment on the exceptionally erroneous and misleading statement about UK law,  permissibility of using “deadly violence” and self defence.

Let us be quite clear – There is no UK Law that provides the right to use “deadly violence” as Mr Katerynchuk states.  Such a law simply does not exist!

There is however, a statutory defence in UK Law for having used force that proved fatal – in extreme circumstances.

For reasons unnecessary to expand upon here, that UK statutory defence – Section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 – I still know verbatim, so indelibly was it imprinted on my consciousness – and for good reason.

Section 3 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 of persons unlawfully at large”.

That is it! – There is no more.

Within that single sentence lays the only defence in UK law for anybody, from armed police officers to civilians alike, who may ultimately take a life in the prevention of crime, or the arrest and capture of those suspected or engaged in criminality at the time force is used.

The key to this Section in respect to the new proposed Ukrainian amendment – and any defence in a UK court of law – revolves around “such force as is reasonable in the circumstances” – for if a jury finds that such force was unreasonable (ie excessive), then Section 47 (Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm), Section 20 (Wounding with Intent), Section 18 (Grievous bodily harm) – all crimes under the Offences Against the Person Act – manslaughter or murder convictions follow for those who go too far.

And to be quite frank, in the UK, this has indeed been the result of numerous verdicts where those claiming self-defence are deemed to have gone beyond reasonable force in the circumstances.

Thus for the benefit of Mr Katernychuk and for absolute clarity – Nobody has “the right to use deadly violence” in the UK in any circumstances.  Nobody.  Neither armed police nor civilian.

There is a truly enormous ethical, moral and legal chasm between a “right to use deadly force” as purported by Mr Katerynchuk, and a statutory defence in law, having used force that proved to be fatal.  A de jure defence – which may or may not be successful in its application – cannot in any way be interpreted as a de facto right!

All the UK law does provide, is a statutory defence should somebody die – and either the CPS or a jury will decide whether any force used in the circumstances was reasonable – or not.

Let us hope that Mr Katernychuk’s proposed amendment is far better worded than his explanatory note and statement!

(By the way, nothing from me tomorrow as I won’t have time.)