Mark Duggan: what the law says

Via the news media we are beginning to learn some of the facts surrounding the death of Mark Duggan in Tottenham. We cannot draw any conclusions until we know all the facts and we should certainly not react until the investigation is complete and fully analysed.

However, there is one thing which has been concentrated on by the media as if it has a huge bearing on the case: whether or not Duggan’s gun was fired at police before he was shot. The initial reports that Duggan’s gun was fired at police appear to be flawed. The IPCC has stated its belief that the gun was not fired. However, if my understanding is correct, this is not the only relevant factor in any prosecution of the officer who pulled the trigger.

Interestingly, these “powers” are available to anyone and are not broader or narrower for ordinary citizens or officers of the Crown.

Common law: A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances for the purposes of: self-defence; defence of another; defence of property; prevention of crime; or lawful arrest.

In assessing the reasonableness of the force used, prosecutors should ask two questions: was the use of force necessary in the circumstances, i.e. was there a need for any force at all? And; was the force used reasonable in the circumstances?

The courts have indicated that both questions are to answered on the basis of the facts as the accused honestly believed them to be. There is no rule in law to say that a person must wait to be struck first before they may defend themselves.

Criminal Law Act 1967, Section 3(1): A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime, or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or of persons unlawfully at large.

It is rather more subjective than we might imagine given the weight placed on the small number of facts presented so far to the public via the media.

Of course, public perception is incredibly important. That is why a thorough investigation, which is both fair and seen to be fair, is vital. The other side of the coin is, though, that it is important that people understand what the law is before deciding whether the final decision is a stitch-up or not.

11 Responses to “Mark Duggan: what the law says”

  1. 10 August, 2011 at 12:14 am

    Good post, but never forget the unwritten ‘good faith’ test. A law enforcement officer acting in good faith, trying to perform their duties, counts for something.

    I can get quizzed by a £350/hr QC who I’m not match for IQ wise, but providing I have acted in good faith and that the fairness of the ‘procedings’ is not jeapordised by any minor transgression from procedures, I will most likely get an easy ride.

    The point of the criminal justice system (and all involved in it from the investigating officer to the judge to the courtadmin staff) is to make sure:

    a) the guilty are convicted
    b) the innocent are ideally not prosecuted, but if so acquitted.

    In these self defence tests, the ‘reasonable’ test can com down to ‘good faith’ (especially where a police officer on an anti-firearms op is involved).

  2. 3 Electro-Kevin
    10 August, 2011 at 4:38 am

    Will the outcome satisfy the black ‘community’ ?

    That’s the question. They seem to be the ones with the power at the moment.

  3. 10 August, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    whatever the rights and wrongs of the case, it doesn’t really seem like even the ‘rioters’ are claiming this as the basis of their ‘protest’. it doesn’t seem like they are claiming anything at all. apart from that it is unfair that they don’t have big screen TVs when some people do. very depressing.

  4. 11 August, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    “Petty criminals”? Ha! Arson is a mandatory life sentence. Most arsonists can’t do it and end a nervous wreck in a secure ward.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title="" rel=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <pre> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.



mail @ behindblueeyes . co . uk


  • 78,127 hits since 19.10.09