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Defending a charge of Threats to Kill

How many times have you said something like ‘I’m going to kill you’?  Most of the time this will simply be something said in the heat of the moment rather than genuine threats to kill.

threats to killIf, however, you make such a threat and intend that another would fear it would be carried out then you will be committing an offence of making threats to kill.

The offence is under section 16 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. Even though the legislation is very old it is still a commonly used charge. The key part of the offence is that a person intend another to fear that the threat would be carried out.

Is there a defence to threats to kill?

 If you make the threat in self-defence or in the prevention of crime you may have a defence of lawful excuse.  Whether any threat made was reasonable in the circumstances will be a matter for the magistrates or jury.

Equally, a comment made in temper or jest, with no intent to make anyone fear it would be carried out, would not be an offence.

Evidence of previous history between the parties is admissible as tending to prove that the defendant intended his words to be taken seriously (Williams (C.I.), 84 Cr.App.R. 299, CA.)

What if the threats to kill are made to someone else?

 You do not have to make the threat directly to the person, it may be through a third party.

For example, a man in prison made threats to a prison officer that he was going to kill his ex-girlfriend, he was convicted and received five years imprisonment. The threats were taken especially seriously as he had a previous conviction for the manslaughter of his wife.

What sentence can I expect?

The offence can encompass a wide range of offending so in sentencing the court will look at a variety of factors.  These can include the following examples:

  • was there a weapon?
  • was it a threat in the heat of the moment?
  • the impact on the victim
  • repeated threats or a single calculated threat?

An example is a case involving threats to kill made to an arresting officer.  The offender knew detail about the officer’s home life which threats to killadded weight to the threats.  As a result he was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment.

When a weapon is present when threats are being made the offence is much more serious.  An offender who threatened his former partner with a sword received five years imprisonment.

Sentences imposed can range from a community order for an offence that constitutes one threat made in the heat of the moment, through to imprisonment up to a maximum of 10 years for repeated threats or the presence of a weapon.

How can we help defend in a case of threats to kill?

 As you can see, making threats to kill is a serious allegations and the law relating to defences can be complex.

As a result, if you are arrested or know that the police wish to speak to you about an offence then make sure you insist on your right to free and independent legal advice.

The advantages of such early advice legal advice can be found here.

If you have already been interviewed or face court proceedings we can still make a real difference to the outcome of your case.  Legal aid may well be available to fund your defence at court.

We have offices across the East Midlands.  You can find your most convenient office here.   Alternatively you can contact us using the form below.


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