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Thematic Issue: Rights Protection amidst COVID-19 / General

Social Entrapment Evidence: Understanding Its Role in Self-Defence Cases Involving Intimate Partner Violence


Heather Douglas, Stella Tarrant and Julia Tolmie

This article considers what evidence juries need to help them apply the defence of self-defence where a woman claims she has killed an abusive partner to save her own life. Drawing on recent research and cases we argue that expert evidence admitted in these types of cases generally fails to provide evidence about the nature of abuse, the limitations in the systemic safety responses and the structural inequality that abused women routinely face. Evidence of the reality of the woman’s safety options, including access to, and the realistic support offered by, services such as police, housing, childcare, safety planning and financial support should be presented. In essence, juries need evidence about what has been called social entrapment so they can understand how women’s safety options are deeply intertwined with their degree of danger and therefore with the question of whether their response (of killing their abuser) was necessary based on reasonable grounds. We consider the types of evidence that may be important in helping juries understand the concept and particular circumstances of social entrapment, including the role of experts in this context. 

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(2021) 44(1) UNSWLJ 326: