Self-defense: What you must know

Comments urging people to shoot criminals are commonly found on social media sites. (Image: Facebook)

The topic of self defence came under the spotlight after a White Riverian was arrested over the weekend. Gavin Wingrave (51) allegedly killed a man in self-defence on Friday. He was taken into custody after the incident and will remain behind bars pending his next court appearance on Monday.

Gavin Wingrave (51).

Nelspruit Post’s sister publication, Hazyview Herald, reported that Wingrave was travelling on a dirt road in the Rocky Drift area when a rock hit his vehicle. He reportedly stopped to take a look and was attacked by the rock thrower. A scuffle ensued and the rock thrower was stabbed with a knife. He succumbed to his wounds shortly after.

Wingrave was taken into custody and charged – presumably with murder or culpable homicide. Police have not yet confirmed which charge applies. According to community members, Wingrave has a defence against a possible murder charge – he had acted in self-defence.  Whether Wingrave will plead accordingly remains to be seen.

There are a few requirements that need to be met for the defence of self-defence to be present.

  • Firstly, the attack that you are defending yourself against should be ongoing when you react with violence.
  • You can only defend yourself against an attacker during an ongoing or directly oncoming attack.
  • Self-defence may only be used when this ongoing or directly oncoming attack endangers your life.

According to an article by Anton du Plessis, a researcher with the Institute of Security Studies, entitled When can I fire?(published in crime quarterly no, 2004), courts upheld the following rule in various cases: “the use of deadly force can only be justified when the suspect poses a threat to the lives and safety of others.”  This precedent still stands.

  • If your attacker has fled the scene of the crime, you cannot claim that you reacted in self-defence if you followed him and injured him.
  • The measure of self-defence should be proportionate to the attack that you are defending yourself or someone else against. You cannot shoot someone else for kicking you.

Taking the law in your own hands should be avoided at own times and your reaction should never be disproportionate to the action that you are reacting towards.

 

  AUTHOR
Helene Eloff
Court Reporter

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