R v Hudson and Taylor [1971] 2 QB 202

Criminal law- Threat to witness – Perjury


Hudson and Taylor were two girls who were charged with perjury having given false evidence by failing to identify an individual in the courtroom, during the course of a trial. They had self-confessed that the evidence they had given was false and used the defence of duress on the basis that they had been frightened by threat of injury to them if they had identified the individual. They argued that they had seen an individual in the courtroom who was known for violent behaviour. The jury was directed that duress could not provide a defence in the circumstances and on this basis, they were convicted.


When giving direction to the jury, the recorder directed that as the offence of perjury had taken place in the courtroom, there was no threat of violence in this instance and therefore the defence could not be implemented. The issue at hand was whether the danger was 'present' for the purposes of employing duress as a defence.


Hudson and Taylor’s appeals were allowed and their convictions were quashed. An essential part of the defence of duress was that the threat should be enough to neutralise the will of the accused at the time the crime was committed. On this basis, the jury should have been able to decide to what extent that the impact of the perceived threat had on the circumstances. It was held that just because the threats, in this case, could not be implemented at the relevant moment, it did not mean that the threat was any less 'present’ to neutralise the girls’ will.