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Palmer (1971) AC 814 Privy Council on appeal from the Court of Appeal of Jamaica

The appellant and two others were chased by three men after they stole some ganja. The three men had sticks and stones. During the chase the appellant fired shots. One of the men chasing them died of as a result of gun shot. The appellant's case was that he had not fired the shot which killed the man although the trial judge directed the jury on self-defence. The jury convicted him of murder. He appealed contending that the judge in directing the jury on self-defence should have put an alternative verdict of manslaughter to the jury.

Held:

Appeal dismissed. There is no option for a verdict of manslaughter where a defendant uses excessive force in self-defence. The defence either succeeds in its entirety or it fails. Juries may take into account the situation of the defendant in deciding if the force is excessive and in so doing may take into account the position of dilemma facing the defendant.


Lord Morris:

"If there has been an attack so that defence is reasonably necessary it will be recognised that a person defending himself cannot weigh to a nicety the exact measure of his necessary defensive action. If a Jury thought that in a moment of unexpected anguish a person attacked had only done what he honestly and instinctively thought was necessary that would be most potent evidence that only reasonable defensive action had been taken."
 
Back to lecture outline on public and private defences