R v Abdul Hussain [1999] Crim LR 570

Criminal law - Defence – Duress – Hijacking


Abdul Hussain and the other defendants, in this case, where Shia Muslims that had fled the Iraqi regime to live in Sudan. During their time in Sudan, they attempted a number of times to travel to Europe but were unsuccessful. Their passports were subsequently confiscated. Soon after, the defendants and their families boarded a plane, equipped with plastic knives and hand grenades. They hijacked the plane, which was originally headed for Jordan and landed at an airport in London. They surrendered after eight hours of negotiation and were subsequently found guilty of hijacking a plane contrary to the Aviation Security Act 1982, section 1.


The defendants argued that they had feared being deported back to Iraq where they were very likely to be punished and executed, as all were facing death sentences. The issue for the court was whether the defence of duress by threat should have been presented to the jury during the trial.


Their appeals were allowed. The execution of the threat does not have to be instantaneous but rather the threat of death or serious harm had to operate on the mind of the accused at the time of committing the offence. The court held that the defence of duress by threat or circumstances was available to all offences aside from treason, murder or attempted murder. As a result of this case, the court emphasised the need for legislation relating to the defence of duress as the way in which the law had developed through the common law provided uncertainty.