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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.
  • Necessity

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.

Criminal Law