Regina v Pommell: CACD 16 May 1995

The defendant appealed against his conviction for possessing a loaded shotgun. He had wished to advance a defence to the effect that on the previous evening he had taken it ‘off a geezer who was going to do some damage with it’ in order to stop him.
Held: The duress of circumstances defence can apply and once raised must be left to the jury. Though it had been developed in road traffic law, it has general application. ‘The strength of the argument that a person ought to be permitted to breach the letter of the criminal law in order to prevent a greater evil befalling himself or others has long been recognised (see, for example, Stephen’s Digest of Criminal Law), but it has, in English law, not given rise to a recognised general defence of necessity, and in relation to the charge of murder, the defence has been specifically held not to exist (see Dudley and Stephens (1884) 14 QBD 273). Even in relation to other offences, there are powerful arguments against recognising the general defence.
However, that does not really deal with the situation where someone commendably infringes a regulation in order to prevent another person from committing what everyone would accept as being a greater evil with a gun. In that situation it cannot be satisfactory to leave it to the prosecuting authority not to prosecute, or to individual courts to grant an absolute discharge. The authority may, as in the present case, prosecute because it is not satisfied that the defendant is telling the truth, and even if he is vindicated and given an absolute discharge, he is left with a criminal conviction which, for some purposes, would be recognised as such.’

Kennedy LJ
Gazette 13-Jul-1995, Ind Summary 05-Jun-1995, Times 22-May-1995, [1995] 2 Cr App R 607, [1995] EWCA Crim 7
England and Wales
CitedRegina 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 . .
CitedRegina v Conway 1989
The defendant said that he had driven recklessly because he was in fear for his life and that of his passenger.
Held: The court was bound by Willer to rule that a defence of duress was available. It was convenient to refer to this type of . .
CitedRegina v Willer (Mark Edward) CACD 1986
The defendant appealed against his conviction for reckless driving (absolute discharge and ten penalty points). He drove his car slowly on the pavement in front of a shopping precinct. He said that this had seemed to him to be the only way in which . .

Cited by:
CitedRegina v Shayler CACD 28-Sep-2001
Duress as Defence not closely Defined
The defendant had been a member of MI5. He had signed the Official Secrets Act, but then disclosed various matters, including material obtained by interceptions under the Interception of Communications Act. He claimed that his disclosures were made . .
CitedIn 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 . .
CitedRegina v Rodger, Rose CACD 9-Jul-1997
The two defendants escaped from Parkhurst Prison. On capture they said that as murderers, they had received notices that though they had behaved without criticism in prison, their tarriffs had been increased. They said they felt unable to face . .
CitedQuayle 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 . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Leading Case

Updated: 10 November 2021; Ref: scu.87553