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Imagine a gunman is threatening your life and forced you to commit another offence while holding a gun to your head. To protect your life, you would commit the offence the gunman is forcing you to do in order to protect your life. If you are subsequently charged with committing the offence, you may be able to raise the criminal defence of .


The law recognises that in some cases someone who commits what would otherwise be a crime should be excused for having done so. It recognises that we are human beings and that sometimes people really don’t have a choice – their choices have been overborne by a serious threat to either them or their family. The law would prefer that no one commits a crime but the defence of duress is a concession to human frailty.


There are three elements which make up duress. A person acts under duress, and therefore will not be held to be criminally responsible if that person’s actions were performed:


  • because of threats of death or really serious injury to you or a member of your family;

  • being threats of such a nature that a person:

  • of ordinary firmness and strength of will,

  • of the same maturity and sex as you; and

  • in your position, 

  • would have given in to them and committed the crime demanded of you.


If the Court accepts that you were acting under duress, you would be found not guilty of the criminal offence and acquitted of the criminal charge.

If you think you may have acted under duress in respect of a criminal charge you have received from police, it is important that you seek immediate legal advice. Should you wish to discuss your options, please contact KF Lawyers to arrange for a free initial consultation.

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