Duress is where a person was forced by someone else to break the law under an immediate threat of serious bodily harm befalling himself or someone else. If duress is established it is a complete defence resulting in an acquittal.
The important factors are.
- Must be a threat of death or serious injury
- The threat must be to the defendant himself or to a close member of hi family
The Test for Duress
The two-stage test for duress is contained in R v Graham, which was subsequently approved by the House of Lords in R v Howe. The jury should consider:
- Whether or not the defendant was compelled to act as he did because, on the basis of the circumstances as he honestly believed them to be, he thought his life was in immediate danger.
- Would a sober person of reasonable firmness sharing the defendant’s characteristics have responded in the same way to the threats?
The jury should be directed to disregard any evidence of the defendant’s intoxicated state when assessing whether he acted under duress, although he may be permitted to raise it as a separate defence in its own right.