R v Graham [1982] 1 All ER 801

Criminal - Duress - Murder - Relevance of consumption of drugs and alcohol



Paul Graham had been drinking and taking drugs when he and his homosexual partner killed Graham’s wife. Graham claimed he was under duress as his co-defendant was a violent man. He was charged with first degree murder. He appealed against the conviction on the basis that the trial judge applied a subjective test to the defence of duress.


Whether an objective or subjective test should be applied when determining whether a defendant was under duress at the time the act was committed.


The trial judge was correct in putting to the jury a subjective test and then objective test to determine if the defence of duress could be relied on by Graham. The Court further held that while there was no binding authority that determined whether the test of duress should be purely subjective or objective, it was essential to limit the defence of duress by means of an objective test. The objective test being the “reasonable man” principle. The court defined the test as whether Graham was impelled to act as he did as a result of what he reasonably believed, and, if he had not acted in accordance with King’s wishes, would he have been killed? The second prong of the test was if the answer was yes to the first question(s) of the test, would a sober person of reasonable firmness, sharing Graham’s characteristics, have not responded to whatever he reasonably believed his co-defendant said by participating in the act of killing? The fact that Graham’s will had crumbled as a result of alcohol and drugs is irrelevant to the test and was not required to be considered. Therefore, the appeal was dismissed and the conviction stayed.