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R v Julien (1969) 1 WLR 839

Lord Widgery:

"The third point taken by Mr. McHale is that the deputy chairman was wrong in directing the jury that before the appellant could use force in self-defence he was required to retreat. The submission here is that the obligation to retreat before using force in self-defence is an obligation which only arises in homicide cases. As the court understands it, it is submitted that if the injury results in death then the accused cannot set up self-defence except on the basis that he had retreated before he resorted to violence. On the other hand, it is said that where the injury does not result in death (as in the present case) the obligation to retreat does not arise.

The sturdy submission is made that an Englishman is not bound to run away when threatened, but can stand his ground and defend himself where he is. In support of this submission no authority is quoted, save that Mr. McHale has been at considerable length and diligence to look at the text books on the subject, and has demonstrated to us that the text books in the main do not say that preliminary retreat is a necessary prerequisite to the use of force in self-defence. Equally, it must be said that the text books do not state the contrary either; and it is, of course, well known to us all that for very many years it has been common form for judges directing juries where the issue of self-defence is raised in any case (be it a homicide case or not) to say that the duty to retreat arises.

It is not, as we understand it, the law that a person threatened must take to his heels and run in the dramatic way suggested by Mr. McHale; but what is necessary is that he should demonstrate by his actions that he does not want to fight. He must demonstrate that he is prepared to temporise and disengage and perhaps to make some physical withdrawal; and that that is necessary as a feature of the justification of self-defence is true, in our opinion, whether the charge is a homicide charte or something less serious. Accordingly, we reject Mr. McHale's third submission. "
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