n South African Journal of Criminal Justice - Determining reasonable force in cases of private defence - a comment on the approach in 2010 (1) SACR 411 (SCA) : comments

Volume 25, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1011-8527
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2118



It is trite law that one may lawfully use reasonable force to defend oneself against an unlawful attack by another person. The defence in question, popularly known as self-defence and more properly termed private defence of person, is probably the most commonly known of the justification defences. Although there is no precise test for determining what constitutes reasonable force in any given case, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) appeared to have settled the law on this point in (2003 (1) SACR 35 (SCA) at para [13]), where it held that all that is required is that 'there should be a reasonable relationship between the attack and the defensive act, in the light of the particular circumstances in which the events take place'. It is perhaps surprising, therefore, that the SCA was required to revisit the question in (2010 (1) SACR 411 (SCA)), an appeal against a conviction for culpable homicide in the Port Elizabeth High Court.

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