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R v Baker and Ward [1999] 2 Cr App R 335  Court of Appeal

The appellants had been convicted of robbery. They claimed that they had been specifically instructed to rob the particular store which they were convicted of robbing otherwise they would be killed. The threat came from a drug supplier whom they had become indebted to. The trial judge  directed the jury:

"A person cannot rely on the defence of duress if he has voluntarily and with full knowledge of its nature joined a criminal group which he was aware might bring pressure on him of a violent kind or require him if necessary to commit offences to obtain money where he himself had defaulted to the criminal group in payment to the criminal group."

This was held to be a misdirection. The appeals were allowed and the convictions quashed.

What a defendant has to be aware of is the risk that the group might try to coerce him into committing criminal offences of the type for which he is being tried by the use of violence or threats of violence. The purpose of the pressure has to be to coerce the accused into committing a criminal offence of the type for which he is being tried.
NB this position of the law was stated to be erroneous in R v Hasan [2005]
Back to lecture outline on duress in criminal law