I'm trying to understand the following statement (which is section 53 of the Crimes Act 1961 in New Zealand, bolding mine) -

"Every one in peaceable possession of any movable thing under a claim of right, and every one acting under his or her authority, is protected from criminal responsibility for defending his or her possession by the use of reasonable force, even against a person entitled by law to possession, if he or she does not strike or do bodily harm to the other person."

FWIW, the only relevant information in the Interpretation section of the act states -

"to injure means to cause actual bodily harm"

I realise I don't understand the exact meaning of bodily harm.

A (fictitious) scenario - I'm reading a book I bought with money from a joint account and another owner of the account attempts to snatch book from me. If I prevent this accidentally scratch that person while so doing, have I caused them bodily harm?

Is it relevant if I just grazed the skin or if there is a line of blood? What if I did not actually cause visible damage but caused pain which lasted a short while?

The problem I have here is the juxtaposition of "reasonable force" and "bodily harm"

Thinking on this further, what is the difference between bodily harm and grivious bodily harm?

  • 1
    Maybe change the example to the other person is trying to take the book and in blocking him you graze or inadvertently elbow him. A plain reading says that the person in possession can defend, so in your current scenario once the other person snatched the book then he is in possession and has a right to defend against you. (IANAL and not from NZ). – Damila Aug 7 '19 at 2:21

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