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There are three defences which can be described as duress:
- Duress by threat. The threat must be of death or serious personal injury. The defence is not available to threats against property. The accused must have had a reasonable belief in the threat and his decision to commit the crime in response must be reasonable. The defence will fail if the accused could reasonably have taken evasive action.
- Duress by circumstaces. For example reckless driving bourne out of a belief that you are being followed by potential assassins.
The common law defence of duress is available to most criminal charges, with the notable exception of Murder. This means that, for example, a person who is forced by threats against himself or his family to place a bomb in a public place, which then explodes and kills someone, has no defence. If successful the defence of duress results in an acquital.