The law of the defence of duress arising out of threat or circumstances is in need of urgent parliamentary clarification. Appeals were allowed where the defendants hijacked an airplane in order to escape deportation to a hostile country. ‘The principles may be summarised thus. First, English law does, in extreme circumstances, recognise a defence of necessity. Most commonly this defence arises as duress, that is pressure upon the accused’s will from the wrongful threats of violence of another. Equally, however, it can arise from other objective dangers threatening the accused or others. Arising thus it is conveniently called ‘duress of circumstances’ Secondly, the defence is available only if, from an objective standpoint, the accused can be said to be acting reasonably and proportionately in order to avoid a threat of death or serious injury. Thirdly, assuming the defence to be open to the accused on his account of the facts, the issue should be left to the jury, who should be directed to determine these two questions: first, was the accused, or may he have been, impelled to act as he did because as a result of what he reasonably believed to be the situation he had good cause to fear that otherwise death or serious physical injury would result? Second, if so, may a sober person of reasonable firmness, sharing the characteristics of the accused, have responded to that situation by acting as the accused acted? If the answer to both those questions was yes, then the jury would acquit: the defence of necessity would have been established.’ The defence of duress (whether by threats or from circumstances) was generally available in relation to all substantive crimes, except murder, attempted murder and some forms of treason.
Simon Brown J, Rose LJ
Times 26-Jan-1999,  Crim LR 570,  EWCA Crim 3528
England and Wales
Approved – Regina v Martin (Colin) CACD 29-Nov-1988
Defence of Necessity has a Place in Criminal Law
The defendant appealed against his conviction for driving whilst disqualified. He said he had felt obliged to drive his stepson to work because his stepson had overslept. His wife (who had suicidal tendencies) had been threatening suicide unless he . .
Approved – Regina v Cairns CACD 22-Feb-1999
The defendant had been driving a car. It was surrounded by a group of youths, one of whom threw himself on the bonnet of the car. The defendant, feeling threatened drove off, and the man on the bonnet was injured.
Held: When establishing the . .
Cited – Regina v Safi (Ali Ahmed); Regina v Ghayur; Regina v Shah; Regina v Showaib; Regina v Mohammidy; Regina v Shohab; Regina v Ahmadi; Regina v Safi (Mahammad Nasir); Regina v Kazin CACD 6-Jun-2003
The defendants appealed convictions after rejection of their defence of duress. They had hijacked an aeroplane in Afghanistan, and surrendered eventually at Stansted. They said they were acting under duress, believing they had no other way of . .
Cited – Jones and Milling, Olditch and Pritchard, and Richards v Gloucestershire Crown Prosecution Service CACD 21-Jul-2004
The court considered the extent to which the defendants in the proceedings can rely on their beliefs as to the unlawfulness of the United Kingdom’s actions in preparing for, declaring, and waging war in Iraq in 2003 in a defence to a charge of . .
Cited – In Re A (Minors) (Conjoined Twins: Medical Treatment); aka In re A (Children) (Conjoined Twins: Surgical Separation) CA 22-Sep-2000
Twins were conjoined (Siamese). Medically, both could not survive, and one was dependent upon the vital organs of the other. Doctors applied for permission to separate the twins which would be followed by the inevitable death of one of them. The . .
Cited – Hasan, Regina v HL 17-Mar-2005
The House was asked two questions: the meaning of ‘confession’ for the purposes of section 76(1) of the 1984 Act, and as to the defence of duress. The defendant had been involved in burglary, being told his family would be harmed if he refused. The . .
Cited – Quayle and others v Regina, Attorney General’s Reference (No. 2 of 2004) CACD 27-May-2005
Each defendant appealed against convictions associated variously with the cultivation or possession of cannabis resin. They sought to plead medical necessity. There had been medical recommendations to move cannabis to the list of drugs which might . .
Cited – Regina v Jones (Margaret), Regina v Milling and others HL 29-Mar-2006
Domestic Offence requires Domestic Defence
Each defendant sought to raise by way of defence of their otherwise criminal actions, the fact that they were attempting to prevent the commission by the government of the crime of waging an aggressive war in Iraq, and that their acts were . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 19 May 2022; Ref: scu.85105