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Can I protect myself or my property without breaking the law?

In some cases, the law allows people to do things which would be illegal if it was not to protect themselves or their property. Some examples are:

  • Citizen’s arrest:

You may, in limited circumstances, arrest someone who you find committing an offence or who you reasonably suspect has committed an offence. You should hand that person over to the police without delay. Be warned though that you risk legal action for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment or assault if you go over the limited legal authority you have and you should get legal advice if you make a citizen’s arrest.

  • Self-defence:

If you are unlawfully assaulted, you can use such force that is reasonably necessary to prevent the assault from happening or continuing. You can use this defence even where the assault was provoked, but only in limited circumstances. If you acted in good faith or you came to the aid of someone else who was being attacked, you can also argue self-defence.

  • Provocation:

You are not criminally responsible for an assault on another person when you have been provoked. The provocation must:

    • be an action, word or gesture that is likely to cause a reasonable person to lose control
    • be directed either to you or to someone who you have a close relationship with e.g. spouse, child, girlfriend, boyfriend, parent. The force used by you responding to the provocation must be reasonable considering the provocation and must not be intended to cause death or grievous bodily harm. The reaction to the provocation must be immediate in that there was no time to regain personal self-control.


Protecting property

You may use reasonable force to prevent someone unlawfully entering or remaining in your dwelling (including a caravan, tent and in some cases holiday accommodation). It is up to a magistrate to decide whether the force used was reasonable. Reasonable force does not include setting traps for intruders and you may be liable for injury caused to another person on their property even if that person is a trespasser. You should get legal advice.

You may need legal advice if you

  • have attempted a citizen’s arrest
  • have used force against another person on your property and the person was injured
  • have been charged with an offence and are going to Court.

If you need legal advice about a personal injury, contact a private solicitor who specialises in that area of law.

These organisations may also give you legal advice:

Community legal centres give legal advice on a range of topics, but do not give advice about personal injury. Contact them to see if they can help with your matter.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private solicitor for advice or representation, including lawyers who specialise in personal injury.


Disclaimer: The material presented on this website is an information source only. The information on this website is written for people resident in, or affected by the laws of Queensland, Australia only. Links to other sites from this website are provided for the users’ convenience. The LGBTI Legal Service does not endorse these sites and is not responsible for the information on these sites or the use made of this information. If you have a specific legal problem, you should consult a professional legal advisor.

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