Criminal LawGeneral NewsMajor Criminal Law

Defences in a Criminal Case

By November 16, 2018 No Comments
Criminal Case

Defences in a Criminal Case

Criminal cases are complicated. Personal circumstances – both those of the person committing the crime and any victims –, the location and time of the crime and any third parties that may be involved are just a few of the extenuating circumstances that may come to light during a trial. Here are a few of the defences that can be used in a criminal case.

Accidental Acts

The law defines an accidental act as something that happened independently of the person’s will. For example, if an individual was walking down the street looking at their phone, and they accidentally trip up and injure another person who was not paying attention either, it could be deemed to be an accidental act. Likewise, if a car is driving the speed limit, the driver is paying attention and is not intoxicated and a person runs into the street right in front of them and gets injured, an accidental act would most likely be claimed.

Mistake of Fact

This could perhaps better be explained as a “misunderstanding of the circumstances.” While ignorance of the law cannot be used as a defence, not understanding the circumstances within which the crime was committed has the potential to be. For example, if someone helps load what they consider to be merchandise onto the back of a truck, when in fact a burglary is taking place, mistake of fact could be used as a defence.

Self Defence

The law allows for an individual to defend themselves using “reasonable force.” However, this does not apply if the incident was started by the individual claiming self-defence, or if the force used was unreasonable. A slap in the leg does not merit a punch in the face. Importantly, even in cases of murder or grievous bodily harm, self-defence can be claimed.


Otherwise known as unwilled acts, automatism is a rarely used defence. It says that the individual was experiencing the symptoms of an illness – such as epilepsy – and wasn’t intending to take the criminal action. The most obvious example of this would be an epileptic fit while holding a gun, resulting in death.