The law recognises that there are situations where Police Officers may be required to use force. The primary responsibility for using force rests with the officers, who are answerable to the law.
Officers should consider three core questions before using force.
Would the use of force have a lawful objective (eg: the prevention of injury to others or damage to property, or the effecting of a lawful arrest) and, if so, how immediate and grave is the threat posed?
Are there any means, short of the use of force, capable of attaining the lawful objective identified?
Having regard to the nature and gravity of the threat, and the potential for adverse consequences to arise from the use of force (including the risk of escalation and the exposure of others to harm) what is the minimum level of force required to attain the objective identified, and would the use of that level of force be proportionate or excessive?
Powers and law
We have a number of powers and legislation which can help us in the fair and effective use of force.
absolutely necessary for a purpose permitted by law
the amount of force used must also be reasonable and proportionate (ie: the degree of force used must be the minimum required in the circumstances to achieve the lawful objective) otherwise, it is likely that the use of force will be excessive and unlawful.
Excessive use of force is unlawful.
Section 76(7) of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 sets out two considerations that should be taken into account when deciding whether the force used was reasonable. Both are adopted from existing case law. They are:
that a person acting for a legitimate purpose may not be able to weigh to a nicety the exact measure of any necessary action
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.
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