Focus On

Criminal Law - Defences - Self-defence

Thursday, August 25, 2016 @ 8:00 PM  


Trial of the accused, Short, for two counts of assault and two counts of assault with a weapon. The accused was a detainee at a remand and correctional facility when he was attacked by another inmate. A third inmate served as a lookout and possessed a knife he intended to use to stab the accused. The accused fought off both attackers. Other inmates joined the fracas. During the melee, the accused retrieved a shiv from his sock. The two attackers suffered lacerations, cuts and puncture wounds. The accused suffered a neck wound. The incident was captured by security cameras. The Crown subpoenaed the attackers. The first attacker testified that he planned and carried out the attack due to gang rivalries. The security footage showed the witness strike the accused while he was not looking. The second attacker, a 280-pound individual, testified that he agreed to the plan due to loyalty to his gang. He stated that he lost his knife during the fight and did not know who inflicted the injuries he sustained. The accused testified that he acted in self-defence. He testified that he carried a concealed weapon in jail due to a history of being targeted in past attacks.

HELD: Short was acquitted. The number of inmates involved in the fight rendered it impossible to determine who possessed knives. Although it was possible that the accused slashed the second attacker, that was one of many possibilities. The security video revealed that the accused caused the first attacker’s injuries. The accused was subjected to an unexpected blindside attack by a rival gang, in which they blatantly sought to kill him using a shiv. Eventually, officers arrived with pepper spray and managed to subdue the crowd, but the control they exerted seemed lackadaisical at best. There was nothing unreasonable in the accused using a weapon to defend himself. In the heat of the moment, the accused could not be expected to weigh the proportionality of his response with any precision. The circumstances supported the accused’s position that he acted in self-defence.