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DEFENCE (Lat. defendere, to defend), in general, a keeping off or defending, a justification, protection or guard. Physical defence of self is the right of every man, even to the employment of force, in warding off an attack. A person attacked may use such force as he believes to be necessary for the warding off an attack, even to the extent of killing an assailant. The same right of reciprocal defence extends not only to defence of one’s own person, but also to the defence of a husband or wife, parent or child, master or servant. (See Assault; Homicide.) As a legal term in English pleading, “defence” means the denial by the party proceeded against of the validity of a charge, or the steps taken by an accused person or his legal advisers for defending himself. In civil actions, a statement of defence is the second step in proceedings, being the answer of the defendant to the plaintiff’s statement of claim. In the statement of defence must be set out every material fact upon which the defendant intends to rely at the trial. Every fact alleged in the statement of claim must be dealt with, and either admitted or denied; further facts may be pleaded in answer to those admitted; the whole pleading of the plaintiff may be objected to as insufficient in law, or a set-off or counter-claim may be advanced. A statement of defence must be delivered within ten days from the delivery of the statement of claim, or appearance if no statement of claim be delivered.

By the Poor Prisoners’ Defence Act 1903, where it appears, having regard to the nature of the defence set up by any poor prisoner, as disclosed in the evidence given or statement made by him before the committing justices, that it is desirable in the interests of justice that he should have legal aid in the preparation and conduct of his defence, and that his means are insufficient to enable him to obtain such aid, it may be ordered either (1) on committal for trial by the committing justices, or (2) after reading the depositions by the judge or quarter sessions chairman. The defence includes the services of solicitor and counsel and the expenses of witnesses, the cost being payable in the same manner as the expenses of a prosecution for felony. Briefly, the object of the act is, not to give a prisoner legal assistance to find out if he has got a defence, but in order that a prisoner who has a defence may have every inducement to tell the truth about it at the earliest opportunity. Legal assistance under the act is only given where both (1) the nature of the defence as disclosed is such that in the interests of justice the prisoner should have legal aid to make his defence clear, and (2) where also his means are insufficient for that end (Lord Alverstone, C. J., at Warwick Summer Assizes, The Times, July 26, 1904).

Transcriber's note: A few typographical errors have been corrected. They appear in the text like this, and the explanation will appear when the mouse pointer is moved over the marked passage. Sections in Greek will yield a transliteration when the pointer is moved over them, and words using diacritic characters in the Latin Extended Additional block, which may not display in some fonts or browsers, will display an unaccented version.

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