Duress (criminal law)

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In criminal law, duress is a defence to many offences. Showing that one has been coerced, forced or threatened to participate in a criminal act either with threats or coercion applied to the defendant or a close relative of the defendant. It provides a complete defence, although there are numerous exceptions.

In English law, duress is not accepted as a defence to murder, attempted murder or treason, nor does it provide a defence for those who have willingly joined criminal gangs but who are now coerced by members of the gang to commit criminal acts. The test for duress in English criminal law is that the defendant must act with a clear causal and immediate link to a threat of death or serious physical injury, and a "sober person of reasonable firmness sharing the characteristics of the defendant" would have done similarly[1].


  1. R v. Graham, [1982] All ER 801