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This defence is based on the premise that the defendant was forced to commit the offence due to being
threatened with serious violence or death.
The D will have to choose between death or committing a crime and within such a situation it is clear they
will choose their own life.
If the defence fails the D will be liable of the full offence as they have both the actus reus and mens rea
Duress can either be through direct threat by another (duress of threats) or through external circumstances
(duress of circumstances). The latter overlaps with the defence of necessity.
It can be used for all offences except murder, attempted murder and treason.
o Murder: Howe (1987) was when D took part in the torture of a
man and then strangled and killed another man; he held he did this
due to threats against him. The HoL's held that duress was not
available as a defence to anyone charged with murder whether
they are a secondary party or not. Lord Hailsham stated that this is
due to it being not in "good morals, good policy or good law" to
allow those who could sacrifice their own life to be able to use the
defence. It also applies where the D is young, in Wilson (2007) the
D was 13 and his father made him kill his mother. The CoA held that
duress was not available for murder even though D may be more
susceptible to threats.
o Attempted Murder: Gotts (1992) was when a 16 year old boy
was threatened by his father to kill his mother. The CoA held that
the defence was not available for this offence.
Duress by threats.
This is where the D is threatened with serious injury or death to
commit a specific crime by another person.
The threat must be of death or serious injury; lesser threats do not
provide a defence. Although, as long as there are serious threats then the
cumulative effect of other threats can be considered. In Valderrama-Vega
(1985) the D illegally imported cocaine due to a mafia organisation
threatening to kill him and disclose him homosexuality. The CoA quashed the
conviction on the basis that there jury were entitled to look at the cumulative
effects of all threats as there had been a threat of death.
The threat can be against a member of your family or even friends.
This was held in Martin (1989) where the woman threatened to commit
suicide unless her husband drove disqualified; this was held as sufficient.
Furthermore, in Conway (1988) the threats were to the passenger of D's car
and this was accepted as forming the basis of a defence of duress.
Subjective and objective Test.
Graham (1982) laid down the test for duress and this was approved by the HoL's case of Howe (1987). D
lived with his wife and his male partner. D was told by his partner to kill his wife by pulling on the flex. The
wife died. He help that he did so due to being threatened by his partner but was convicted of murder.
Subjective test: Was the defendant compelled to act as he did because he reasonably believed he had a
good cause to fear serious injury or death?
o This is based on the idea of whether the defendant did the offence because of the threats he
believed has been made. In Martin (DP) (2000) the d suffered with a psychiatric condition which
made him regard many situations as threatening. He claimed that he was forced to carry out
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robberies due to two men. The CoA quashed his conviction and held that duress should be treat the
same as self-defence in regard to a belief in the circumstances.
However, the Hasan (formerly Z) decision places this precedent in doubt as they followed
Graham (1982) which means the D's beliefs must be genuine and reasonable.…read more
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repay the money not to steal. Therefore, there was no sufficient connection between the threats and the
Duress of circumstances, however allows for any offence to be committed that is reasonable in the
circumstances as shown in Abdul-Hussain (1999).
This involves situations where the D had placed themselves in a situation where duress can be used against
them. For example joining a gang and then being threatened, by the gang, to commit a particular offence.…read more
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consider whether the D's actions were "actually necessary". D's conviction was quashed as he reasonably
perceived a threat of serious physical injury or death.
Problems with the law of Duress.
× Unavailable for murder: Due to the case of Howe (1987) the defence is unavailable for murder. This can
be said to ignore situations were a woman is hijacked and told that her two kids would die if she did not
help a terrorist plant a bomb.…read more