The Criminal Law Act 1967, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and common law apply to all uses of force by the police and require that any use of force should be ‘reasonable’ in the circumstances. Reasonable in these circumstances means:
- 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.