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R v Conway (Francis Gerald) [1989] Q.B. 290

Criminal law – Reckless driving – Duress

Facts

Conway was arrested for driving recklessly in contradiction of the Road Traffic Act 1972, section 2. Conway had driven away from plain-clothed police officers in a reckless manner. Conway’s defence was that he acted under duress and that due to the circumstances he feared for his and his passenger’s life. His passenger was the victim of a shotgun attack under similar circumstances several weeks prior to this and sustained serious injuries from this. Conway was convicted of reckless driving, sentenced to six months imprisonment and was banned from driving for eighteen months. He appealed his conviction.

Issue

Conway had accepted that his driving could be considered reckless in the circumstances but argued that he had driven in the same manner that a reasonable man would have done in the same situation. The legal issue, in this case, was whether the defence submitted by Conway should have been put to the jury or not. The court also raised the question whether the circumstances led to a defence of necessity or duress.

Held

Conway’s appeal against conviction was allowed. Firstly, it was held by the court that it was immaterial whether the defence in this instance was termed as duress or necessity but that if the defendant was acting in order to avoid a threat of serious harm or death, the judge was required to direct the jury to consider this in accordance with their verdict. The trial judge did not do so in the first instance and therefore the conviction had to be quashed.


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