Northern Ireland v Lynch [1975] AC 653

Crime - Duress - Murder - Aiding and Abetting - Defence of Duress


The defendant was charged with aiding and abetting a second degree murder. He drove members of the Irish terrorist group the IRA into town where they had shot and killed a police officer. At the trial, the Defendant claimed that he was under duress and was threatened that if he did not drive the members, he would be killed. His defence was struck out so he appealed.


The issue was whether the Defendant could rely on the defence of duress.


The appeal was allowed. The Defendant was able to rely on the defence of duress against a charge of murder. Even though there were clear actions by the Defendant that showed his participation and his contribution in the act of murder, i.e. driving the members and likely knowing that serious bodily injury or possibly death would result by him taking them to and from the scene, as he was forced to do so against his will and did so because his life was threatened or in serious danger, it was not necessary to prove his intent to murder. In any event, a charge of aiding and abetting does not require a proof of intent to murder. Given the circumstances that caused him to assist by driving the members were extreme and left him with little alternative option (potentially his own death), he was able to rely on a he defence and a new trial was ordered.