I have the privilege to discuss used of force and self defense with a veteran police officer. She is also a very capable martial artist. We are discussing: would the law judged trained professionals more harshly than average citizens who are not trained and here are her responses. ( noted – this is only her perspective as a veteran police officer does not represent the full picture of the justice system of Canada’s Criminal Code system and we will have other experts’ articles up in the future )
- (1) A person is not guilty of an offence if
(a) they believe on reasonable grounds that force is being used against them or another person or that a threat of force is being made against them or another person;
(b) the act that constitutes the offence is committed for the purpose of defending or protecting themselves or the other person from that use or threat of force; and
(c) the act committed is reasonable in the circumstances.
Bill C-26 Reforms to Self Defense and Defense of Property: Technical Guide for Practitioners
So the optimal wording that you need to get out of the criminal code here is what is reasonable. That will be determined by what the person believes the threat to be, how they articulate it and also how they articulate what they did in response to the perceived threat. How a person perceives a situation will depend on their experience, skill set (how competent they are with that skill set), size, state of mind, location, what the threat is physically and how they interpret that threat….
So if I come across a person with a knife and they threaten me with it…if I believe that they will use that knife to harm me I am well within my rights to protect myself and if that means using deadly force then that is what it means. If I am confident that I can disarm him and lock him up till help comes or so I can get away and in the meantime I break his arm or leg, then that is justified too. A smaller stature person may have to use tactics that someone of the same size, weight, strength etc as the attacker may not have to…or a larger, stronger person on the verge of blacking out because he or she is being knocked unconsciousness could use force that is potentially deadly on a smaller, physically weaker person. Or a larger person facing a smaller person with a knife, pipe or another weapon…Yes/No? Again, situational…
In a multiple assailant situation…the threat of grievous bodily harm or death has increased exponentially, so would you be justified in creating an unsustainable injury on the parties involved to create an opportunity to get away? They all had 359 other directions they could have chosen to go but they came at you…so what are you to interpret regarding their mindset? If someone is going for my gun…that is a deadly force encounter. There is only one thing I can deduct from that action. They want to take my gun to harm me or someone else. So can I use deadly force? Or force that will cause grievous bodily harm? Yes…but I will need to articulate the reasons…including how I felt during the incident.
There is no blanket answer…each situation will be different with all sorts of unique outliers. The important thing to remember is the term reasonable force…was what you did reasonable given the circumstances, how you perceived the threat, what was happening to you etc…Beating someone who was trying to take your wallet into a state of unconsciousness could easily be viewed as unreasonable. In a similar scenario however, where you tossed your wallet to the side for them but they continued to come for you, may present a different set of circumstances.
When you are in a situation where the bar star is trying to posture in front of his buddies or girlfriends, you need to show you did everything you could to try and diffuse the situation, including trying to leave. Then if that is ineffective whatever physical force you use has to be justified…why did you do what you did? As trained fighters/instructors we have more tools to draw from but we should also be very skilled at articulating why we used what we used and when we used it; what the expected outcome of our actions was etc would also need to be articulated. We are in a better position than the average person to explain and paint the picture clearly for the courts. Whether it is an unskilled civilian smashing a brick against the side of the head of her assailant or a skilled fighter who delivers a back kick to the subject’s throat doesn’t really matter…the determining factor is why did you act?
Written by: Officer Y
Edited By: Josh Hensman