The London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association
latest news for 20 May 2013
|Show All » In the Media » General »|
Defence that dates from earlier times - June-02-12
Source: The Times - Law
Marital coercion may be used as a statutory defence to most criminal charges under English law and in Northern Ireland. It is contained in section 47 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925 and is similar to duress, but with a reversed burden of proof.
This means that the defence must prove marital coercion on the balance of probabilities, while with duress the prosecution must disprove any duress on the higher test of “beyond reasonable doubt”. It must also be proved that the husband was present when the wife committed the crime and that they were legally married.
While the coercion need not be violent, it is insufficient for the wife to have been acting out of loyalty to the husband. But the defendant must prove that the offence was committed as a result of her will being overborne by the wishes of her husband, leading to her being forced unwillingly to participate in the offence.
It is a defence that falls short of duress but still relates to the person’s state of mind at the time. Ultimately the jury will decide if the defence is made out.
In 1977, the Law Commission recommended that the defence of marital coercion should be abolished altogether. They said that they did not consider it to be appropriate to modern conditions.
One judge has remarked that coercion dates from earlier times and that modern wives are not like Saxon ones.
« Go Back