We have a number of basketball lovers at this office and we were saddened by the events in the basketball game between Australia and the Philippines, and in particular the violent nature of some of the attacks. There has also been praise for Luc Longley's actions in pulling players off of Goulding, who was on the ground while some men pinned him and other men hit and kicked him.
The official position in basketball is that no player or official should leave the bench or otherwise join in, and it is as a matter of law an assault to grab someone and push them out of the way as Luc Longley did. So this has prompted us to answer the question, what does the law say about self defense in Australia?
What is an assault?
Whilst assault generally includes physical contact, an assault is any act which intentionally or recklessly causes another person to apprehend immediate and unlawful violence - R v Knight (1988) 35 A Crim R 314
An assault can be committed without touching another person R v Rolfe (1952) 36 Cr App Rep 4
What is self-defence?
In Australia a person is not criminally responsible for assault if they are defending someone, but this isn't a blank cheque. According to section 418 of the Crimes Act 1900 NSW the person has to believe that the conduct is necessary to:
- defend himself or herself or another person; or
- prevent or terminate the unlawful deprivation of his or her liberty or the liberty of another person, or
- protect property from unlawful taking, destruction, damage or interference, or
- prevent criminal trespass on any land or premises or to remove a person committing any such criminal trespass.
Additionally, the conduct must be a reasonable response in the circumstances as he or she perceives them. Often arguments about self defense turn upon whether the response was reasonable.
Also pursuant to the legislation if the defence is raised then the prosecution (that is the Police) bear the onus of proving, beyond reasonable doubt, that the person did not carry out the conduct in self-defence.
What should I do?
Speak to Bruce Coode about your matter if you have been charged with an assault, but you believe that you were acting in self-defence. Don't answer any questions about the incident until you speak with Bruce about it. His first half hour appointment is free and it is important that you obtain legal advice before speaking with anyone about serious allegations like assault.
For more information about our firm generally, or criminal law specifically, please click on the link to the left.