Law - Should duress be a defence to murder? Watch

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Onearmedbandit
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#1
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Currently, duress (when you are forced to commit a crime) will result in a complete acquittal for all criminal offences except murder (or any offence involving murder - attempted murder, participation to murder etc) . To best illustrate the scenario, I'll use a simple example:

Joe points a gun at Bob's head, telling him that if Bob does not murder Harry then Joe will shoot and kill Bob. Bob obliges, and sure enough he kills Harry.

Now I don't think Bob should be guilty of murder, but the law says he is. Should people be expected to 'be a hero' and sacrifice their life over somebody else's?


I think the defendant should be acquitted because:

1. The law should not expect people to be heroes.
2. The duress defence always bangs on about how the defendant should always choose the lesser of two evils. Well, sometimes killing someone is the lesser of two evils.
3. Although they say in special circumstances the CPS will decide not to prosecute, I believe this is an unsatisfactory substitute for a clear and fair law.
4. People who are against duress being a murder defence claim that the defence is too easy to raise and difficult to disprove, but that's just like every other defence anyway!
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Sam2k
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If someone points a gun at your head and tells you that he is going to shoot you if you don't shoot someone else, then it is your duty as a citizen to take the bullet rather than end the life of a fellow citizen.
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Onearmedbandit
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(Original post by Mr Moncal)
If someone points a gun at your head and tells you that he is going to shoot you if you don't shoot someone else, then it is your duty as a citizen to take the bullet rather than end the life of a fellow citizen.
That's a fair enough reason. I don't agree with it but I can understand your point of view.
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Weejimmie
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How often has this defence been made?
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Muse
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(Original post by Onearmedbandit)
That's a fair enough reason. I don't agree with it but I can understand your point of view.
i agree with moncal. morals, law and policy should deny a man the right to take an innocent life even at the price of his own.
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Amb1
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(Original post by Onearmedbandit)
Joe points a gun at Bob's head, telling him that if Bob does not murder Harry then Joe will shoot and kill Bob. Bob obliges, and sure enough he kills Harry.
If that's the situation Joe would probably shoot Harry and Bob in the end anyway.
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Chubb
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(Original post by Onearmedbandit)
Currently, duress (when you are forced to commit a drime) will result in a complete acquittal for all criminal offences except murder (or any offence involving murder - attempted murder, participation to murder etc) . To best illustrate the scenario, I'll use a simple example:

Joe points a gun at Bob's head, telling him that if Bob does not murder Harry then Joe will shoot and kill Bob. Bob obliges, and sure enough he kills Harry.

Now I don't think Bob should be guilty of murder, but the law says he is. Should people be expected to 'be a hero' and sacrifice their life over somebody else's?


I think the defendant should be acquitted because:

1. The law should not expect people to be heroes.
2. The duress defence always bangs on about how the defendant should always choose the lesser of two evils. Well, sometimes killing someone is the lesser of two evils.
3. Although they say in special circumstances the CPS will decide not to prosecute, I believe this is an unsatisfactory substitute for a clear and fair law.
4. People who are against duress being a murder defence claim that the defence is too easy to raise and difficult to disprove, but that's just like every other defence anyway!
Another thing is that its purely logical for Bob to kill Harry because if he doesn't he will be dead and Harry will then be killed by Joe anyway - why does the law state that 2 people should die instead of 1? :eek:
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Howard
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(Original post by Onearmedbandit)
[/i]

Now I don't think Bob should be guilty of murder, but the law says he is.
Does it? Just out of curiosity what is the source of this law?
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Six Dinners Sid
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(Original post by Mr Moncal)
If someone points a gun at your head and tells you that he is going to shoot you if you don't shoot someone else, then it is your duty as a citizen to take the bullet rather than end the life of a fellow citizen.
Don't agree with this, duress is the right of self-preservation being recognised over an offence - if you don't allow it people are still going to do it and to punish someone in these circumstances would be absurd because the deterrent force of the law pales against the threat of the immediate infliction of serious harm.

Your comments don't mirror human nature and demands too much of ordinary people - i don't believe you would take the bullet.

Besides the commisison of the offence transfers to the duressor - someones still guilty of the murder.
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NDGAARONDI
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(Original post by Onearmedbandit)
Joe points a gun at Bob's head, telling him that if Bob does not murder Harry then Joe will shoot and kill Bob. Bob obliges, and sure enough he kills Harry.
Have you considered diminished responsibility, provocation and self defence for example?
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Weejimmie
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As I said:
HOW OFTEN- IF AT ALL- HAS THIS DEFENCE BEEN MADE?
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Six Dinners Sid
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(Original post by Weejimmie)
As I said:
HOW OFTEN- IF AT ALL- HAS THIS DEFENCE BEEN MADE?
Quite regularly i should think, the extension to include duress of circumstances is the really interesting bit though and has opened up the defence to many new possible situations. You might remember that some hijackers were arrested at stansted airport a while ago after a few days siege, they were acquitted on a duress of circumstance defence, very controversially so.

Professor Norrie has drawn attention to the fact that we have a defence of duress for those whose volition is negated by threat of violence but not a defence of poverty for theft - interesting but probably unworkable in any case i think.
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Trousers
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(Original post by Amb1)
If that's the situation Joe would probably shoot Harry and Bob in the end anyway.
If I was Bob and had a gun in my hand, I'd shoot Joe in the balls, giving myself and Harry ample time to run away from the ailing Joe. I'd then call an ambulance for Joe, so that I didn't get locked up for letting him bleed to death.

Everyone's a winner. (Apart from Joe).
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Muse
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if i was a lawyer i'd get Bob off the murder charge and have Harry's estate paying for his future therapy.
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Six Dinners Sid
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[QUOTE=Onearmedbandit]Currently, duress (when you are forced to commit a drime) will result in a complete acquittal for all criminal offences except murder (or any offence involving murder - attempted murder, participation to murder etc) . To best illustrate the scenario, I'll use a simple example:

Joe points a gun at Bob's head, telling him that if Bob does not murder Harry then Joe will shoot and kill Bob. Bob obliges, and sure enough he kills Harry.

You point illustrates the differential treatment that the criminal law has when death is involved, other egs,
- availability of provocation defence and dimnshed responsibility only being available to murder
- causing death by gross negligence (no equivalent for lesser harm)

All this points towards the need for a (democratic) codification of the criminal law so that these consistencies can be ironed out.
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Onearmedbandit
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(Original post by Amb1)
If that's the situation Joe would probably shoot Harry and Bob in the end anyway.
Maybe so, but we're not concerned about that for simplicity's sake
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Onearmedbandit
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(Original post by Howard)
Does it? Just out of curiosity what is the source of this law?
Duress comes from common law, there is no legislation in the area. I.e. it's all from what judges have said in the past.

In R v Dudley & Stephens (1884)it was ruled that duress is never a defence to murder. There are more cases for things like attempted murder and stuff but I don't have my book and forgot.

But there's also the case of R v Howe (1987) which comfirms this law.
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ThunderCat8
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Ok, so they change the law, then what if guilty people tell the courts "He told me to kill him or he'd kill me" but that wasn't true and they just wanted to be let off. How would the jury prove/disprove a statement like that? I can see where you're coming from and I agree that in true-life circumstances, one death is the lesser of the two evils. But there will always be naughty criminals who spoil the rule for all of us! *******s! :mad:
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Onearmedbandit
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(Original post by NDGAARONDI)
Have you considered diminished responsibility, provocation and self defence for example?
Do you think it's fair that the defendant gets convicted of voluntary manslaughter then?
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Muse
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IMO, the law rightfully requires people to choose to resist rather than kill on fear of a murder charge. if there are no other possible means of escaping death, apart from killing an innocent person; the murderer ought rather to die himself than escape judgement by the murder of an innocent
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