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Chisora struggles to break through Haye’s defence

David Haye Derek ChisoraBy Joseph Lappin: On Saturday night the press conference which followed the heavyweight fight between world champion Vitali Klitschko, of the Ukraine, and the British challenger, Dereck Chisora of Peckham, was interrupted when David Haye, a former opponent of Vitali’s younger brother, Wladimir, appeared at the back of the room and launched a tirade of verbal abuse aimed at Klitschko and his manager. Haye believes he agreed a deal for a fight with Klitschko in December last year and seemed bemused when Klitschko’s manager intimated that his charge would overlook Haye and any other British fighter when choosing the opponent for his next title bout.

Chisora became rather miffed that Haye had taken centre stage at a press conference held to discuss and debate the twelve rounds he had completed just hours earlier. And, instead of ignoring Haye’s palpable presence, Chisora told Haye he was an “embarrassment”; that his brooding and theatrical performance in the aftermath of his points defeat to Wladimir Klitschko in which he blamed his defeat on a broken toe had “messed it up for young British fighters coming through”. Haye responded to Chisora’s rhetoric of “how’s your toe” by informing Chisora that he was a “loser”. Agitated, Chisora vacated his seat and marched towards Haye to confront him, removing his jacket on the way. Commence the fracas. Punches were thrown by both boxers and accusations have been made by the Chisora camp that David Haye used a bottle in an attempt to inflict injury on the Boxer from Peckham.

The actions of Haye and Chisora have landed both in trouble with the German police and the British Board of Boxing. German prosecutors have informed the media that both boxers could face jail terms for their violent behaviour. Journalists and prominent figures in British boxing have called for Chisora to face a lengthy ban and some have questioned whether he should be allowed to fight again.

Neither boxer has denied that he did nothing wrong in the melee that ensued. Both clearly regret the incident if not solely because it could put an end to their careers in boxing.

However, David Haye’s trainer and closest ally, Adam Booth, today argued that David Haye acted in self defence. Booth insists “”What David did was a defensive reflex. The man said he was going to slap him, walked 20 yards towards him, took his jacket off, went straight into a head butt and shoved his fist into David’s chin. Everything was a defensive reflex from David”. And, he is not alone. In an interview with the BBC, the president of the Federation of German Professional Boxers, Dr Thomas Putz, said he “saw Chisora run directly to David Haye … and attack him…David Haye only did the right thing to Chisora. He saved himself. It was self-defence”.

Was David Haye acting in self-defence? Or do his actions constitute an act of violence; of bodily harm.

The defence of self defence in English law arises from both Statute: the Criminal Law Act 1967 and from common law. Without using too much legal jargon, an individual is entitled to use reasonable force to protect himself if he genuinely believes that he is in danger or is the victim of an unlawful act, such as an assault.
The principle was established in the case of Beckford: “A defendant is entitled to use reasonable force to protect himself, others for whom he is responsible and his property. It must be reasonable”. What does ‘reasonable’ mean? Well, in a criminal case, that question can only be answered by a jury who judge the facts of the case, but in essence, the defendant, in this scenario David Haye, can be forgiven for making decisions that are not entirely rational and therefore, the test must balance the objective standard of a reasonable person by attributing some of the subjective knowledge of the defendant, including what he believed about the circumstances, even if mistaken. An individual may even take a pre-emptive strike if he honestly believes the circumstances demand it. This means that a person can use force if he believes that there is a threat of imminent violence if they do not act first. However, even allowing for mistakes made in a crisis, the amount of force must be proportionate and reasonable given the value of the interests being protected and the harm likely to be caused by use of force.

Applying the law to the Haye versus Chisora it is clear that it was Chisora who approached Haye having threatened to “slap” him and as he did so he removed his jacket and told a security guard not to intervene. He stood at Haye’s feet and leaned his head into Haye’s face. It was at this point that Haye used physical force against Chisora and hit him. Was this violent act by Haye one of self defence? Possibly so.

Haye could argue that he feared an imminent attack by Chisora; therefore that it was reasonable in the circumstances, fearing an assault by Chisora, to use an act of force against Chisora in order to protect himself. Arguing that the amount of force he used was reasonable and proportionate could prove more difficult for Haye, especially as he appears to have used a bottle when striking Chisora. But, Haye could argue that he was holding a bottle at the moment he feared an imminent assault by Chisora and therefore was not able to rid himself of the bottle when he acted in self defence. In any event, in order for a defence of self defence to be successful, were this to end in a criminal court, the jury would have to accept that it was reasonable for Haye to act in the way he did; that his actions were not excessive.

Haye is now in the United States on holiday. German police still want to speak to Haye and one must suspect his journey back to the UK will be via Germany.

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