What is Self-Defence Under the Law in NSW?


It is reported that on new year’s eve, as Pope Francis walked in Vatican City whilst greeting pilgrims on his way towards the cobble esplanade, footage has emerged of a woman from the crowd grabbing the Pope’s hand and pulling him towards her.

The act appears to cause the Pope pain, as the footage then depicts the 83-year-old Pope immediately slapping the woman’s hand area at least twice before she appears to release her grip, allowing the Pope to free his hand and walk away.

On new year’s day, Pope Francis said, “so many times we lose patience. Me too… I say ‘excuse me’ for the bad example”. He apologised for slapping her hand.

He also publicly denounced the “many times women’s bodies are sacrificed on the profane altar of advertisements, of profits, of pornography.”

He stated that woman are “continually offended, beaten, raped, forced into prostitution”. He encouraged woman to be “fully associated” with processes of decision-making for the purposes of creating a more united and peaceful world.

He further said, “And if we want a better world, that is a house of peace and not a courtyard of wat, may the dignity of every woman be at the heart of it.. Woman are givers and mediators of peace, and should be fully associated with decision-making processes.”

“For when women can transmit their gifts, the world finds itself more united and more in peace. So, a conquest for women is a conquest for the whole of humanity.”

This is despite the fact that according to the teachings of the Vatican, a woman cannot be a priest- The highest role, being the papacy is strictly reserved for a male.

What is Self-Defence Under the Law in NSW?

Section 418 Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) provides a defence of self-defence to a criminal charge.

It says that you will not be criminally responsible for an offence if you carried out that conduct in self-defence.

A person is considered to carry out conduct in self-defence if each of the two elements are satisfied:

  1. You truly believed it was necessary to carry out such conduct to either:
    • Defence yourself or another person.
    • Prevent or terminate unlawful deprivation of your liberty or the liberty of another person.
    • Protect your property from being taken away unlawfully, from it being destroyed, damaged or interfered with.
    • Prevent criminal trespass.
  2. Your conduct was a reasonable response in the circumstances you perceived it to be at the time.

Some common charges that self-defence is used as a defence in include, Domestic Violence assaults charges, Murder or manslaughter, common assault, grievous bodily harm assaults.

How does the defence actually work in court? The court in the case of R v Katarzynski [2002] NSWSC 613 has said that, in order to succeed in claiming self-defence, the following 2 tests must be proven:

  • There is a reasonable possibility that you considered it necessary to do what you did in self-defence; and
  • There is a reasonable possibility such a response by you was reasonable in the circumstances as you perceived at the time.

The state of mind of the person claiming he/she acted in self-defence is therefore very important to determining if such response was then reasonable.

Here, the accused person’s age, health, gender, and physically surroundings at the time are all relevant in assessing the circumstances perceived.

Once having raised the self-defence argument in court, self-defence will be successful unless the prosecution is able to produce evidence to negate each of the above two tests beyond reasonable doubt (section 419 Crimes Act 1900 (NSW)).

See our previous article on how intoxication effects self-defence under the law.

Want to know more on this area of criminal law? Call our criminal lawyers from Sydney for a free appointment today.

About Jimmy Singh

Mr. Jimmy Singh is the Principal Lawyer at Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia - Leading Criminal Lawyers in Sydney, Delivering Exceptional Results in all Australian Criminal Courts.


  What Our Clients Say

If we could give Tayla more than 5 Stars we would. Earlier this year, an extremely unscrupulous and unexpected set of circumstances led a visiting family member to urgently needing… (read full review) By N.R. from Sydney on 30/03/2021
Extremely happy with Ahmad’s service, he secured me an outcome better than I could have expected. Highly recommend Ahmad and the CDLA team. They really know the law when it… (read full review) By R.S. from Sydney on 24/05/2021
So incredibly thankful to Keiran Kahn for the best possible outcome was so responsive the whole case and got a better outcome than I could've expected. The best lawyer I… (read full review) By T.R. from Sydney on 26/04/2021
Tayla worked on my case from the very beginning. She went above and beyond to help my case. She’s extremely professional yet at the same time warm & caring. I… (read full review) By M.Z. from Sydney on 17/06/2021
Ahmad from CDLA got me a non conviction for 2 charges of common assault. Professional and honest throughout the entire process, highly recommended. (read full review) By T.X. on 20/04/2021

Free Conference Booking Form

Follow Us