Developments in other countries
Self-defence in other countries
6.7Historically, self-defence in Australia and Canada required an imminent attack or threat. In Australia, this requirement was relaxed in common law states in Zecevic v DPP, which confirmed that imminence and proportionality were only factors relevant to whether the accused believed that it was necessary to act in self-defence and the reasonableness of that belief. However, in the states that had codified self-defence (Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia), it remained complex and more restrictive.
6.8Case law in Canada has also relaxed the requirement of imminence in cases involving victims of family violence who kill their predominant aggressor. The current self-defence provision in the Criminal Code now directs the court to consider, among other factors, the imminence of the force anticipated, and the nature and proportionality of the response, in determining whether the defendant’s act was reasonable.
6.9In England and Wales, Ireland and in some states of the United States adopting the Model Penal Code, self-defence continues to be available only if the attack is imminent.
6.10While the continued requirement for imminence is recognised as a problem for victims of family violence in Queensland, England and Wales, and Ireland, the preferred solution in those jurisdictions was to reform partial defences to make these more accessible to victims of family violence who kill in the absence of an imminent threat. This is discussed from paragraph 6.39 below.