The Queensland Police Service (QPS) has many leaflets advising you on how to keep yourself and your property safe. You can download these from the web or pick one up from a police station.
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 wasn't 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.
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.
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 court 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.