R v Flatt (David Sean) [1996] Crim LR 576

Criminal law – Duress – Drug addiction

Facts

Flatt had a drug addiction and fell in debt to his supplier to the value of £1,500. The supplier had told the appellant to take possession of some drugs and if he did not, the supplier would shoot his grandmother, mother and girlfriend. Flatt was caught with a significant amount of drugs and was subsequently convicted on four counts of possession with the intent to supply and given a lengthy sentence. Flatt attempted to employ duress as a defence to his actions which was unsuccessful. He was convicted by the jury and appealed the decision.

Issue

Flatt appealed on the basis that the judge had not directed the jury appropriately and had not given effective direction on the alternatives available to Flatt in the circumstances. Flatt also argued that the jury should have assessed the extent to which his drug addiction would have limited his availability to accurately weigh threats. Further to this, Flatt also contested the length of the concurrent sentences he was given.

Held

Flatt’s appeal was dismissed. The trial judge was considered to have given exemplary direction on the question of duress. Flatt had a sufficient time period in which to the relevant authorities and was informed of the identity of the man who had threatened him. The drug addiction was self-induced and not a characteristic of an individual. Moreover, there was also no evidence that Flatt’s condition would limit his ability to withstand a threat. Lastly, at only 22 years of age, the sentence was seen as an appropriate deterrent in the circumstances.