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   Case summaries      R v Gotts

R v Gotts [1992] 2 AC 412 House of Lords

The appellant, a 16 year old boy, was ordered by his father to kill his mother otherwise the father would shoot him. He stabbed his mother causing serious injuries but she survived. He was charged with attempted murder and the trial judge ruled that the defence of duress was not available to him. He pleaded guilty and then appealed the judge’s ruling.


The appeal was dismissed and his conviction upheld.

The House of Lords followed the obiter dicta statement from R v Howe & Bannister and held that the defence of duress was not available for attempted murder.

The decision was based on the fact that it would be anomalous to allow the defence to attempted murder, which can only be established where the defendant has an intention to kill, whereas murder can be established with a lower level of mens rea since it can be committed by one who intends to cause serious injury.
Back to lecture outline on the defence of duress in criminal law
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