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Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture
Reasonable Force Case (UK News)

This news has been shared by number of newspapers today:


In short, Mr Hanson discovered Mr Savare in his home trying to steal his TV. A violent struggle ensued during which Mr Hanson was able to push Mr Savare out of his house and onto his patio. Mr Hanson locked the door to keep Mr Savare out. Mr Savare apparently stayed put on Mr Hanson’s patio. Mr Hanson went and got a knife and returned and stabbed Mr Savare over 50 times (30 times in his neck).  Mr Savare died as a result and Mr Hanson was put on trial for murder. The jury was not asked to deliberate on the alternative charge of manslaughter. Mr Hanson claimed self-defence and the jury found him not guilty of murder on that basis.

The prosecution argued it was not self-defence because the actions were neither reasonable nor necessary:

 'The prosecution say that his actions were in fact neither necessary to defend himself, as the intruder was by now outside the property, neither were they reasonable, and were therefore not done in lawful self-defence.'

The reports don’t say why that was rejected by the jury. However, the argument from the defence included the following:

In his closing speech Christopher Henley, QC, defending, said Mr Savare head-butted and punched Hanson.

'He has the presence of mind to open the patio door, Mr Savare's behaviour defies all rationality. We know from his previous convictions the relentlessness of his violence towards resistance.

'This is absolutely consistent with how he has behaved in the past.'

They also mention that Mr Hanson had acted instinctively. So, it could be that the following law applies:

Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 Section 76 (7)(b): that evidence of a person's having only done what the person honestly and instinctively thought was necessary for a legitimate purpose constitutes strong evidence that only reasonable action was taken by that person for that purpose.

Because the events happened on Mr Hanson’s property, it could also be that the events were not viewed as “householder case”? This would see “reasonable” defined as not “grossly disproportionate”.

Not all of the papers include the following information, but the International Business Times reports that:

“The News Shopper reported that the 51-year-old Hanson was a paranoid schizophrenic and had certain rituals that included cleaning up the street outside his home.”


If it is the case that Mr Hanson suffered from such things, then the fact cases are judged on the situation as a person honestly believed them to be, even is the belief was unreasonable and mistaken, could also have played a part?

We simply don’t know enough at the moment, but it is clear the jury did regard the actions to be self-defence where the actions were both reasonable and necessary as defined by law.

Hopefully more information will come out because this would seem to be an important case study when it comes to what UK law deems as reasonable force.

All the best,


Neil Babbage
Neil Babbage's picture

Very interesting. If Hanson is a paranoid schizophrenic then this is likely to be an outlier case that may not move the interpretation of the law in future cases. As you note, if his illness led him to believe he remained in mortal danger (within the bounds of reasonableness if the assailant remains in view, is acting in a threatening manner, and on the property even if outside the door) then his response would fall within the existing law. Of course it could also be a "perverse" jury - they sometimes make strange decisions. Personally I won't be advising people that stabbing sometimes 50 times is okay!

sarflondonboydonewell's picture

An interesting case; the CPS clearly felt the evidence was such to get a guilty conviction for murder not allowing the Jury to consider a lesser a charge of manslaughter.

According to one report Mr Hanson was charged with murder after prosecutors said that his actions were not reasonable or necessary to defend himself, “as the intruder was outside the property”.

In this case the prosecution argued that as the burglar was shut outside the property it was not necessary for the victim to use force.

To prove a defence of self defence does not apply, the prosecution considers two elements; one was the force necessary? Two if it was necessary was the force reasonable?

If the prosecution proves that the force used was not necessary then what ever force is used be it from a push to punch or use of weapons is not considered reasonable because the first element that it was not necessary to use force means that what ever force is used is not self defence.

In this case the victim was subject to a violent assault by a person with a history of violence. It was clear that the attacker entered the property and attempted to steal items and at one point was outside the house on the patio.

The victim’s medical condition would mean that their perception of danger is such that they would consider themselves in danger even if they were not or the danger had pasted/stop. Hence the number of blows

In this paritcular case the Jury accepted it was necessary to use force and the force was reasonable.

My personal view is that their were factors regarding the victim’s perception that people without paranoid  schizophrenic don’t have. So as I always say ‘each case is judged on its own very unique set of circumstances’.

Anf's picture

According to the reports, the burglar was violent, and having been ejected from the building, didn't leave.

I don't think I'm either paranoid or schizophrenic. But in that scenario, I might consider that they intend to come back in (otherwise they'd have left after being ejected). Furthermore, I'd consider that they are not scared that I might call the police, leading me to conclude that 1 the intended to come back in and 2 they are a bit insane. Furthermore, I might consider that I am trapped in the house, they are outside with access to the whole perimeter. Ignoring them gives them the chance to take the initiative with the potential to gain the upper hand.

Of course if I was in that situation, I very much doubt I'd go out and start stabbing (though having never been in that or a similar situation, I can not be sure how I'd react). But all of these factors ought to have been, and probably were, considered by the jury.