This study examines the defence of duress in the
criminal law. The first two chapters are concerned with
the problem of what acts can be considered to have been
performed under duress. An analysis of coerced acts is
undertaken from the point of view of the philosophy of
The legal treatment of the defence begins with a
discussion of its juridical basis. On what grounds have
the courts regarded duress as a defence? The question of
whether it affects mens rea is discussed.
This is followed by an analysis of the nature of the
threat required to establish the defence. Modern developments in the cases are discussed, attention being drawn to
an emerging liberal view of the law in this area.
Finally, two issues raising moral problems are
considered. The first of these is the requirement of the
prior innocence of the accused; the second is the vexed
question of duress and murder. Can one take life under
duress and still claim the defence? Recent important
decisions on this matter are scrutinised.