The Uplifted Knife
: Exploring the Boundaries of Self-defence

  • Ffion Llewelyn

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis provides a critique on the law of self-defence in England and Wales. It demonstrates the general justifiability of the defence, while challenging recent legislative amendments that expand its scope for householders. Location has developed as a key variable in cases of self-defence, with greater rights of protection ascribed to householders defending against intruders than is permitted in other situations. The reasons behind this increased protection are criticised, and it is argued that it is more appropriate to apply the same standard of self-defence regardless of the location of the attack. The research also explores the complex relationship existing between the criminal law defence of self-defence and crimes involving offensive weapons in the law of England and Wales. It demonstrates that the law has developed in a contradictory and confusing manner. While self-defence may provide a defence to the infliction of injury to an aggressor, it is unlikely to justify the initial criminal act of carrying an offensive weapon or bladed article in a public place. The reasons for carrying weapons are examined, and it is submitted that in addition to legal attempts to deter and punish possession, proactive initiatives targeted at the community level are required. This is a matter of balancing competing harms, namely, harms to the individual against a risk of harm to society. It is argued that the law has developed appropriate methods for addressing the harms involved in self-defence through application of the reasonable force test. The thesis also highlights the role of the media in shaping public perception of the defence and offences discussed. It also demonstrates the relevance of emotions, primarily fear, and argues for an increased consideration of the power of fear to influence an individual’s defensive force, and decision to carry a weapon for protection where appropriate.
Date of Award14 Jun 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SponsorsColeg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol | Welsh National College
SupervisorGlenys Williams (Supervisor) & Anel Marais (Supervisor)

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