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Universe Tankships v International Transport Workers Federation, The Universe Sentinel [1983] 1AC 366 House of Lords


The ITWF blacked a ship, The Universe Sentinel, to prevent it from leaving port. They made several demands in relation to pay and conditions and also demanded the ship owners pay a large sum of money to the Seafarers International Welfare Fund. The ship owners agreed in order that the ship could leave port and then sought to recover the sum paid to the welfare fund.

Held: The money had been extracted under economic duress and could be recovered. The House of Lords held that earlier case law had been wrong to look at coercion of the will so as to vitiate consent. During an analogy with the defence in criminal law where it is recognised that a defendant acting under duress has the intention to commit the offence but is excused from the crime because they had no choice but to submit.

Accordingly two elements of duress were identified:

1. Compulsion of the will - absence of choice
2. Illegitimacy of the pressure

Back to lecture outline on Duress