Chapter 5
Self-defence in New Zealand


5.1Self-defence recognises that a person is justified in using reasonable force in the defence of themselves or another. It is contained in section 48 of the Crimes Act 1961. Self-defence is a complete defence, resulting in an acquittal if successful. It is also a general defence, which means it can be engaged as a defence to justify the use of force by any person against almost any form of attack or threat to that person or any other and is not limited to defence against unlawful assault.370

5.2This chapter discusses the theory and history of self-defence in New Zealand and sets out how it applies generally. The subsequent chapter then discusses the problems that arise in the operation of self-defence where a victim of family violence kills their abuser. An analysis of the options for reform follows in Chapter 7.

370AP Simester and Warren Brookbanks Principles of Criminal Law (4th ed, Thomson Reuters, Wellington, 2012) at 507; and Simon France (ed) Adams on Criminal Law (online looseleaf ed, Thomson Reuters) at [CA48.01].