This is why you can’t ignore the Law regarding ‘Reasonable Force’!
A doorman has received a six-year custodial sentence for the manslaughter of a customer in an Oldbury nightclub.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened (another door supervisor, Brent Wright, received a similar sentence after an incident at Saga party in 2012, where he was responsible for causing the death of a man who was trying to re-enter the event by using a so-called ‘sleeper hold’ on the victim. You can read about this here.)
This latest tragic incident occurred when the Oldbury doorman, Nicholas Salhan, punched the victim in the neck during a confrontation in the nightclub, where a charity function was being held, which led to a serious haemorrhaging of the deceased’s throat. It transpired that Salhan (and another doorman) had become very aggressive as they tried to clear people from the venue at the conclusion of the event. The victim had been trying to calm things down when Salhan had struck him.
(You can read the full Stourbridge News article here.)
It transpired that the defendant had a combatives background as he used to box and that, during the trial, he accepted that his actions had included ‘excessive force.’
In this case (as in the case of Wright), we can definitely see that the defendant broke many, if not all, of the principles of reasonable force. This seems especially so from the point of view that it appears, by acting aggressively, he demonstrated no attempt to avoid conflict (as presumably shown by the prosecution – note, the duty to avoid conflict as held in law is not the same as the old ‘duty to withdraw’; indeed, it may be necessary on occasions for security staff to move towards and intervene in an incident as long as it is reasonable in the circumstances) and that his actions were not necessary or proportionate – especially from the point of view of using force to prevent a greater harm from occurring. Indeed, his actions after punching the victim seem to me to suggest that, if anything, he was aiming to teach the victim and anyone else present a lesson.
I think its important to draw two essential lessons from this:
- Training is absolutely vital in relation to any front-line staff who are involved in potentially confrontation situations. In the case of door staff, they have to have undertaken training an awarding-body accredited qualification in order to obtain the SIA door supervision badge which they are required to hold by law in order to work in the industry. This training certainly includes instruction of the law regarding ‘Reasonable Force’ as well as conflict management skills. However, its not just the fact that any mandatory training has been completed – its also the quality of training involved that matters, whether it be the SIA approved-training package and/or any additional role-specific training the security operative may receive on top of this. In other words, it must be fit for purpose and employers very much have a duty of care to ensure that this is the case.
- Its often believed that persons who have combative skills might find themselves more liable to be prosecuted if they do have to use force during a confrontation. Indeed, some people believe that martial artists and others have to give a warning before using force (this is one of the less bizarre claims that I’ve heard of!) Actually, this is not the case, as a jury in the case will treat a defendant the same as any other ordinary person when considering if their actions were reasonable. However, they are allowed to consider – in the light of the defendant having knowledge of specialist combative skills – if the defendant’s training caused him not to act reasonably in the circumstances. In this case, it is clear that the defendant did not act reasonably when using his combative skills.
The bottom line is that is absolutely essential for any person contemplating using force in a confrontational situation – whether this be door staff, martial artists or whoever else – to have a good understanding of the law of reasonable force and this knowledge should certainly be obtained by undertaking proper training and instruction. A failure to do so can only lead to yet more tragic incidents such as this occurring again in future.
If you’d like to find out more about the law of reasonable force and how this relates to martial artists in particular, then check out my free video series here.