Regina v Williams (Gladstone): CACD 28 Nov 1983

The defendant believed that the person whom he assaulted was unlawfully assaulting a third party. That person was a police officer, who said he was arresting the other, but did not show his warrant card.
Held: The court considered the issue of whether a defendant’s unreasonable belief could support a plea of self defence.
Held: Lord Lane CJ said: ‘The reasonableness or unreasonableness of the defendant’s belief is material to question of whether the belief was held by the defendant at all. If the belief was in fact held, its unreasonableness, so far as guilt or innocence is concerned, is neither here nor there. It is irrelevant. Were it otherwise, the defendant would be convicted because he was negligent in failing to recognise that the victim was not consenting . . and so on.’ and ‘Even if the jury come to the conclusion that the mistake was an unreasonable one, if the defendant may genuinely have been labouring under it, he is entitled to rely on it.’
Lord Lane CJ: ‘In a case of self-defence, where self-defence or the prevention of crime is concerned, if the jury come to the conclusion that the defendant believed, or may have believed, that he was being attacked or that a crime was being committed, and that force was necessary to protect himself or to prevent the crime, then the prosecution have not proved their case. If, however, the defendant’s alleged belief was mistaken and if the mistake was an unreasonable one, that may be a powerful reason for coming to the conclusion that the belief was not honestly held and should be rejected. Even if the jury come to the conclusion that the mistake was an unreasonable one, if the defendant may genuinely have been labouring under it, he is entitled to rely on it.’

Lord Lane CJ
(1983) 78 Cr App R 276, [1987] 3 All ER 411, [1983] EWCA Crim 4
England and Wales
Cited by:
AppliedBeckford v The Queen PC 15-Jun-1987
(Jamaica) Self defence permits a defendant to use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances as he honestly believed them to be. ‘If then a genuine belief, albeit without reasonable grounds, is a defence to rape because it negatives the . .
CitedB (A Minor) v Director of Public Prosecutions HL 23-Feb-2000
Prosecution to prove absence of genuine belief
To convict a defendant under the 1960 Act, the prosecution had the burden of proving the absence of a genuine belief in the defendant’s mind that the victim was 14 or over. The Act itself said nothing about any mental element, so the assumption must . .
CitedDirector of Public Prosecutions v Armstrong-Braun Admn 5-Oct-1998
A building site was subject to a requirement to move great crested newts before work could proceed. The defendant, a local councillor interfered to prevent a digger destroying the land until the newts had been moved. He appealed his conviction for . .
CitedRegina v O’Grady CACD 1987
The defendant and his associate drank substantial quantities of cider. They then fought and the defendant killed the associate. His defence was that he mistakenly thought his friend was attacking him. He appealed his conviction for manslaughter.
CitedRegina v Hatton (Jonathan) CACD 26-Oct-2005
The defendant appealed his conviction for murder saying that his defence of having killed by virtue of a mistake which arose from his self-induced intoxication should have been allowed.
Held: The appeal failed. It had been argued that the . .
CitedAshley and Another v Sussex Police CA 27-Jul-2006
The deceased was shot by police officers raiding his flat in 1998. The claimants sought damages for his estate. They had succeeded in claiming damages for false imprisonment, but now appealed dismissal of their claim for damages for assault and . .
CitedAshley and Another v Chief Constable of Sussex Police HL 23-Apr-2008
The claimants sought to bring an action for damages after a family member suspected of dealing drugs, was shot by the police. At the time he was naked. The police officer had been acquitted by a criminal court of murder. The chief constable now . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Leading Case

Updated: 11 November 2021; Ref: scu.195978