Self defence

Reasonable force may be used to resist unlawful arrest or harm to themselves, others or property. The amount of force used must be reasonable, and in proportion to the situation; shooting a man who is merely shouting at you is a bit stupid.

Cockcroft v Smith - Way back in 1705, a lawyer bit off the finger of a clerk during a scuffle in court. Mmmm omnomnom. This was not a reasonable response to the clerk's threat, which involved thrusting his fingers towards the lawyers eyes. This case established the idea that self-defence must be in proportion.

Lane v Holloway - A pair of neighbours shared a poor relationship. One came home drunk one night and the lady next door asked him to be quiet. He replied "shut up you monkey-faced tart", which started a row between him and the lady's husband. The drunk guy gave him a friendly shove, the husband gave him 18 stitches in return with a onebang. This was out of proportion to the drunk guys actions.

This principle may even arise when the defendant is protecting his land.

Revill v Newbury - An  allotment owner got fed up of people nicking his stuff, so he hid in his shed with a shotgun. He managed to shoot a trespasser after much waiting, this was not in proportion either.

Consent of the claimant.

Volenti non fit injuria basically mean someone who voluntarily takes part in a risk of physical harm has no legal cause of action if the risk comes true. This most commonly happens in sports cases and medical treatment.

Simms v Leigh - A broken leg from a tackle occured in one game, after a player hit a wall near the side (allowed distance from the pitch). Rugby is well known to be a dangerous contact sport, and the claimant accepted the risks, as he was a proffesional rugby player.

However a case in which the defendant did something outside the rules of the game, is not allowed and is not consented to. Condon v Basi is a case with a tackle outside the rules of the game; so is R v Billinghurst where the defendant gave the claimant the onebang in the middle of a rugby game. Famous examples of cases that didn't happen, yet where the defendant was potentially liable, are Tyson v Holyfield, in which an ear got bit off; and Haaland v Keane, which involved a particularly dirty tackle.

Medical cases and consent.

If a patient consents to medical treatment, they are effectively consenting to assault, battery and possibly false imprisonment. For this reason doctors try to get written consent in advance whenever possible. Consent is invalidated when the patient is not fully told of the risks of the treatment being given.

Chatterton v Gerson - During an operation for a hernia, the patient got an injection, rendering her leg numb. She claimed she had not been fully made aware of the potential consequences of the injection. Th court held that she was aware of the broad risks of it though.

If a patient has been informed of the existence of a risk, but is not aware of the full extent of it, it will not amount to battery. 'Informed consent' is not necessary

Sidaway v Governers of Bethlem Royal and Maudsly Hospital - The claimant was rendered paralysed following an operation. The court held that she consented, even though she did not know of the potential consequences of the risk.

Patients over the age of consent can give valid consent to treatment always. Those under the age of 16 are able to if they can show sufficient maturity, understanding both the nature of the treatment and what it involves.

Gillick v West Norfolk HA - The claimant was a roman catholic who did not want her children to use contraception. Her children were under 16, so it was up to her to give consent. The court overruled her decision, stating the children were mature enough to decide themselves, and it would cut down on teenage pregnancies.

Re: M - A girl under the age of 16 needed a heart transplant, yet did not want it. She was deemed to be competent, yet the court sided with the parents and doctors believing that anyone would be overwhelmed by the decision that had to be made. Re: W is a similar case.

Consent need not always be written; sticking your arm out for an injection is consent. But what if a patient refuses? The general rule is that there is no defense to a battery for a doctor acting to save a patients life.

Mallette v Shulman - The claimant was a jehovah, meaning blood transfusions are aginst her religion. She carried a card stating that she did not consent to blood tranfusions. She got injured in a car accident and the doctor gave her one anyway. The doctor should not have treated her, even if she may have died. However, a child's religious views may be overruled.

Normally, if they do not have a 'no blood' card or similar, an adult patient who is unconscious and needs emergency treatment consents to it

If the patient fulfils certain elements of the mental health act, such as refusing to eat, consent may not be needed. However this act cannot be used to simply overrule a patients wishes.

Re: S - A woman who needed a caesarian section, or risked the death of herself and/or her baby, refused. She was a mental hospital for another reason, voluntarily. The doctors sectioned her as mentally ill, then performed it anyway. The court ruled the proceedure was unlawful.


As mentioned a second ago, and briefly on the battery page, the defendant may seek court help in order to prevent further harm to the patient. The doctor must prove that the request is reasonable, if so 'necessity' may be granted.

F v West Berkshire HA (also known as Re:F) (Source Case) - A mental woman became sexually active with another person in her institution. She was in her thirties but had a mental age of around five. Doctors feared that she would become pregnant and wanted to sterilise her as she wouldnt be incapable of raising a child. She was unable to consent so doctors went to court to see if they could do it anyway. It was held to be in her best interests to have sterilisation. Lord Goff later said the principle still stood that adult competent patients must consent, or it is considered battery.

In Gillick v West Norfolk HA it was shown that a parents views may be overriden if it is not in the childs best interests.

Re: A - This sad case involved two conjoined twins, Jodie and May, who would die if not seperated. The parents did not want them seperated, because if they were seperated one would die. It was held by the court that seperation was necessary, as it was the lesser of two evils.


Parents are legally allowed to chastise or refrain their own children, in a reasonable manner. However the case of A v UK, decided by the European Court of Human Rights decided that hitting a 9 year old with a cane was a breach of Article 3. The UK government decided in a review that it was acceptable to smack a child, but not lawful if it left a mark.

Inevitable accident.

If the alleged battery is beyond the control of the defendant, there will be no liability in trespass.

Stanley v Powell - A beater was shot during a bird hunt. It was inevitable accident as the bullet was not fired at him, but bounced of a tree before hitting him.

Unlawful arrest is discussed on the next page.