Development of the law of Duress

Monday 30 June 2003 at 12:58 am | In News | Post Comment

R v Safi and others (CA) 6 June 2003
[Duress - D need only show he reasonably believed there was a threat]

DD hijacked an aeroplane, imprisoned crew and passengers, possessed a firearm with intent, and possessed explosives. They were escaping from a brutal regime in Afghanistan.

Held: LONGMORE LJ,
The first element requires that DD reasonably believed a threat existed.
R v Graham [1982] continued to be the law.
There was no need for there to be a threat it is sufficient that DD reasonably believed there was a threat. This is similar to the requirements of provocation and self-defence, where a defendant was entitled to rely on facts as he believed them to be.
So, if a defendant committed a crime because a gun was pointed at him, the defence would succeed if the gun was not loaded and therefore there was no threat in fact.
The courts have repeatedly emphasised the urgent need for legislation to define duress, and it would be possible, for example, to make hijacking an absolute offence; but Parliament appeared content to leave the development of the applicable law to judicial decision.

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