Defence of Marital coercion to be abolished

The defence of marital coercion has been available to women, married to men, as a defence for all crimes except for murder and treason.  For the defence to succeed the woman must show that she committed the crime in the presence of, and under the coercion of, her husband.

Vicky Pryce famously used this defence last year when she was tried for the offence of perverting the course of Justice.  Pryce said that she had only said that she was driving a speeding car instead of her husband because she had been coerced into doing so by him.  The defence is what is known as a ‘complete defence’ meaning that if a jury had believed Pryce that her actions were entirely down to coercion by her husband, she could not be found guilty of the offence.

Some commentators said that the defence was ‘outmoded’ and unfair as only women married to men could use the defence.  Married men, unmarried men and women and those in civil partnerships were not able to use the defence.

It is expected that the Government will now abolish the defence and the change should come into force later this year.

The defence of duress is still available to all, regardless of marital status, and is a defence to all crimes except murder, attempted murder and treason.  However, the defence of duress relates to circumstances which are more than mere ‘coercion.’  For the defence to succeed there must be a threat of physical harm to the defendant (or someone he is responsible for), such that his action in committing the crime was reasonable.

As with marital coercion, the defence do not have to prove duress, but it they must raise it.  It is for the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act under duress, and that he committed the offence.

If you have been accused of an offence Emery Johnson Astills can help.  We can represent you at the Police Station and throughout court proceedings.  Contact us today if you need help.