R v Shaw – Case Summary

R v Shaw

Privy Council

Citations: [2001] UKPC 26; [2001] 1 WLR 1519; [2002] 1 Cr App R 10;
[2002] Crim LR 140


The defendant, Shaw, confronted his two victims Mantock and Bermudez over a drug dispute. During this confrontation, Mantock produced a gun which Shaw was able to grapple off him. Shaw shot at Mantock at close range. He then opened fire on Bermudez, who was inside a van at the time, because he believed that Bermudez was reaching down – potentially for a weapon. In fact, Bermudez was unarmed. Both Mantock and Bermudez were killed. Shaw had pleaded self defence, arguing that if he had not shot the two men he would have been killed. Despite this, Shaw was convicted of murder by a jury.

On appeal, Shaw argued that the judge had wrongly directed the jury by failing to instruct them that what mattered for self-defence was Shaw’s subjective appreciation of the danger he was under.

  1. Is the defendant’s subjective knowledge and understanding relevant to the reasonableness or necessity of force under the defence of self-defence?

The Privy Council allowed the appeal, quashing the conviction for murder. They then remitted the case for consideration of whether a new trial was appropriate.

This Case is Authority For…

As this case consider the law of Belize, it is merely persuasive with regards to the law of England and Wales. However, it has been cited with approval by the English case of R v Pinnock [2003] EWCA Crim 1903. This case-note considers issues relevant to the law of England and Wales only.

The Privy Council held that two issues must be considered when deciding whether the defence of self-defence is applicable:

  1. Whether the defendant honestly believed that it was necessary to defend himself; and
  2. Judging the circumstances and danger as the defendant honestly believed existed, whether the level of force used was reasonable.

The issue of whether force is ‘reasonable’ for the purposes of self-defence is therefore not purely objective. The reasonableness of force is assessed from the perspective of a reasonable person. However, the reasonable person has the same factual beliefs as the defendant regarding the circumstances, necessity of force and level of danger.


This case also decides various point of law in relation to loss of control and good character evidence under the law of Belize.