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Excessive force

1 minute read

Public liability

Generally, in Australia, it's a crime for one person to use force against another without their consent. However, sometimes situations can necessitate the use of force. 

This is why Australian governments and courts have created specific exceptions to the general prohibition on force, which permit the reasonable and proportionate use of force in certain situations. In some instances, the force used under these exceptions causes death or injury, raising questions about whether the force was excessive.

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What we will ask:

  • Details about the accident and injuries that may have happened to you or your loved one

  • Basic personal information that is relevant and necessary for your compensation claim

What happens next:

  • Either book a no-obligation appointment with a public liability law expert right away, or

  • Speak with our public liability team about your options

What is excessive force?

There is no offence called ‘excessive force’ per se, although excessive force frequently amounts to an offence like assault, battery, murder or manslaughter. Instead, ‘excessive force’ describes situations in which someone with the right to use a certain amount of force uses an excessive, unreasonable or disproportionate amount.

To take an extreme example, a small business may have the right to physically search a person’s bag but would be using excessive force if they shot an escaping shoplifter. 

When does excessive force generally occur?

Excessive force is often reported in altercations involving: 

  • Police: The police have the power to use force, but only within the conditions set out in the legislation of their state. Police brutality in America has been in the headlines lately. Still, unfortunately, Australian police have been guilty of excessive force as well, with a record including fatal shootings, excessive taser use and overly rough treatment during arrests. 

  • Security guards or bouncers: As private employees, security guards and bouncers do not share the power to use force possessed by police officers, but they may have the power to arrest people or escort them off a property. However, they are not permitted to cause injuries. 

  • People acting in self-defence: Self-defence is the most well-known exception to the general rule against force, but there are limits to what is allowable. In one famous case, a teenager was awarded $50,000 after he drunkenly broke into a residence above a pub and was bashed with a baseball bat, sustaining serious facial injuries. Although he was trespassing drunkenly, he posed no immediate threat to the family in residence. 

What are my rights when dealing with excessive force?

It is important to remember that the right to use force against another person is not limitless, even for those in positions of authority such as the police.

If you have been the victim of excessive force, you may be able to claim compensation for assault, battery or any other offence relevant to the circumstances of the attack or claim for the negligence of the attacker or of the attacker’s employer.

If you are experiencing persistent symptoms after being injured, and another person, business or organisation is responsible, you may be able to make a public liability claim.

To help you make a successful claim, we recommend collecting evidence as soon as possible after your injury.

This evidence may include:


Are there any excessive force lawyers near me?

With more than 40 branches across Australia and 1000+ team members, location is no barrier when it comes to accessing Shine Lawyers legal advice and support. 

If you’d like to speak to our public liability team in person, you can see our full list of locations here. 

If you aren‘t able to find a location near you, we can easily arrange an obligation-free virtual appointment or discuss the option to meet at a location that’s comfortable and convenient for you. No matter where you are located, we will always provide the same, expert advice and manage your claim with the same level of quality and commitment.

Can I represent myself, or do I need a lawyer for my excessive force claim?

It is possible to legally represent yourself when making a claim however, doing so successfully will likely require a thorough understanding of the law, your legal rights and entitlements, and a commitment to actively pursue the case to move it forward. 

Without an experienced public liability lawyer in your corner, it can be difficult to identify and highlight the strength of your case. 

Without the right legal advice and support, you then may not receive the compensation you deserve.

Why trust Shine to be my excessive force lawyers?

At Shine Lawyers, we put your first. We’ve been standing up for the rights of everyday Australians for over 45 years. As one of Australia’s largest litigation law firms, we are here to help you get the justice you deserve. 

Our empathy, understanding and expertise are why we’re ahead of the pack. We’ll stand with you and guide you through every step of the way. 

Do you have a claim?

We’re here to make the claims process as simple and stress-free as possible.  

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