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Two years ago an East­ern Cape mom took on three men who were al­legedly rap­ing her daugh­ter, killing one and in­jur­ing the oth­ers.

The woman, dubbed Lion Mama, was ar­rested but set free when the state dropped charges against her.

Ad­vo­cate Sa­muel Mo­dau, a prac­tis­ing ad­vo­cate of the high court, says the charges were likely dropped be­cause it was self-de­fence. Also known as pri­vate de­fence, it is the pro­tec­tion or de­fence of your­self, prop­erty, neigh­bour or a fam­ily mem­ber.

“The act of pri­vate de­fence is di­rected only to­wards the at­tacker in a bid to pro­tect your­self or those around you,” Mo­dau says.

“Any harm in­flicted on the per­pe­tra­tor in pri­vate de­fence isn’t un­law­ful but will be judged on merit and you would have to jus­tify your ac­tions be­fore the court of law.”

The at­tack would have to be in progress for it to qual­ify as a pri­mary de­fence.

“If the per­pe­tra­tor fell to the ground, for ex­am­ple, and there was no fur­ther harm, then there is no danger and self-de­fence can­not be used.”

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