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R v Hudson & Taylor [1971] 2 WLR 1047

The two appellants, aged 17 and 19, were witnesses of a fight which occurred in a pub. They were called to give evidence in criminal proceedings against one of those involved in the fight. They had been threatened with violence if they gave evidence against the defendant. The threat had been repeated on several occasions leading up to the trial and on the day of the trial the person making the threats was in the public gallery in the court room and staring menacingly at the appellants. The appellants lied in court so as not to implicate the defendant and they were later charged with perjury. The trial judge held that the defence of duress was not open to the jury as the threat was not of immediate violence as the threat was made in a court room and thus could not be carried out immediately. The jury convicted and the young women appealed.

Held:

The appeal was allowed and the convictions were quashed.

Lord Justice Widgery:

"The threat must be a 'present' threat in the sense that it is effective to neutralise the will of the accused at that time. When, however, there is no opportunity for delaying tactics, and the person threatened must make up his mind whether he is to commit the criminal act or not, the existence at that moment of threats sufficient to destroy his will ought to provide him with a defence even though the threatened injury may not follow instantly, but after an interval. In the present case the threats of Farrell were likely to be no less compelling, because their execution could not be effected in the court room, if they could be carried out in the streets of Salford the same night."

 

Back to lecture outline on the defence of Duress in Criminal Law