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Private Defence in Torts

Private Defence in Torts
Private Defence in Torts


Understanding Private Defence

Individuals are permitted to employ reasonable force to safeguard their person or property. However, the use of force must be proportionate to the threat faced and aimed solely at defence. The principle of private defence outlines specific criteria and limitations to ensure that the use of force remains justified and lawful.


Criteria for Private Defence

  1. Imminent Threat: Private defence is justifiable only in the face of imminent danger to personal safety or property. Anticipatory actions or retaliatory measures after an attack are not permissible.

  2. Proportionality of Force: The force used must be necessary and proportionate to repel the invasion. Excessive force, such as retaliation beyond what is required for defence, is not justified.

Legal Precedents

  1. Bird v. Holbrook: In this case, the defendant installed spring guns on his property without adequate warning, causing injury to a trespasser. The court ruled in favour of the plaintiff, emphasising that the force used exceeded what the situation demanded.

  2. Ramanuja Mudali v. M. Gangan: Here, the defendant placed live electric wires on his property without visible warning, resulting in injury to a passerby. The court held the defendant liable for the injuries caused due to lack of warning.

  3. Collins v. Renison: The defendant in this case used excessive force by throwing the plaintiff off a ladder while he was on the defendant's property. The court deemed the force used unjustifiable for defence of land possession.

Limits and Justifications

While certain measures, like fixing broken glass or keeping guard dogs, are permissible for property protection, extreme measures such as spring guns are not justified. Shooting a dog may be deemed necessary to protect livestock, as seen in Cresswell v. Sirl, where the defendant was required to justify the shooting by demonstrating the imminent threat to the animals and the absence of alternative measures.


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