Suppose Person A shoots and kills Person B, who was about to shoot to kill Person C, and Person C makes a statement to police to say that if Person A hadn’t intervened, there was no doubt they would have died (i.e. Person B actually pulled the trigger, and only missed due to a bullet to the head).

In the United Kingdom, what crime could Person A be charged with? What might be the minimum sentence, if they can be found guilty?

  • The question's purely about the killing, right? I assume many other laws would be broken in your scenario.
    – bobsburner
    Jan 23 '20 at 12:45
  • @bobsburner Hi, yes, purely about the killing. The situation is really complicated in terms of the law and how many he has broken before getting to the killing. But the book's being published soon, so it's too late to change it now. He does go to jail but not for murder as it is deemed self-defence, but as your suspicions rightly suggest, he's broken so many other laws he ends up in jail anyway despite getting away with murder.
    – GGx
    Jan 24 '20 at 16:43


Which is the unlawful taking of a life with intent to do so.

However, the doctrine of self-defence can make killing lawful:

A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime, or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or of persons unlawfully at large.

if the prosecutor is of the opinion that the force used "is reasonable in the circumstances" they may not lay charges. If they do lay charges the judge may decide that there is no case to answer before going to trial if self-defence applies. If there is a trial this will probably be the strategy the defence employs and they may or may not be successful.

If convicted the penalty is life imprisonment.

Also, there is no UK law: there is the law of England and Wales, the law of Scotland and the law of Northern Ireland.

  • Dale, thank you so much, I really appreciate your time. That link and the Palmer v The Queen quote is super helpful too. I'm on a deadline and so grateful for your quick response.
    – GGx
    Feb 15 '18 at 10:17
  • Dale, can I ask one more thing... roughly how long would it take, from arrest to acquittal, if the prosecutor did decide that reasonable force had been used and no charges should be laid? I'm aware this is a 'how long is a piece of string' question, but it doesn't need to be accurate, just believable. Thx!
    – GGx
    Feb 15 '18 at 10:37
  • In the circumstances described, the person would probably never be arrested.
    – Dale M
    Feb 15 '18 at 10:48
  • Oh, that's great! That really helps my timeline. A drawn out legal process would have made things really difficult. THANK YOU!!!!
    – GGx
    Feb 15 '18 at 11:04
  • @GGx Only if it is obvious that this is really what happened. When there are no other witnesses, it might be reasonable for the police or even the prosecution to suspect that A and C might have conspired to murder B and get away with it by claiming it was a self-defense situation.
    – Philipp
    Feb 16 '18 at 12:31

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