Threats to kill
Threats to kill

The following Corporate Crime practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Threats to kill
  • The offence of threats to kill
  • Elements of the offence of threats to kill
  • Meaning of 'without lawful excuse'
  • Making 'threats'
  • Immediacy of threat
  • Intention
  • Drafting considerations
  • Sentencing for the offence of threats to kill

The offence of threats to kill

The offence of threats to kill is an offence which can be tried in the magistrates' court or the Crown Court. The magistrates' court is likely to decline jurisdiction if there are repeated threats or a visible weapon.

Elements of the offence of threats to kill

The elements of the offence of threats to kill are set out in section 16 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (OATPA 1861).

The prosecution must prove:

  1. any person without lawful excuse

  2. makes a threat to another person to kill that person or another

  3. intending that person to fear the threat would be carried out

Meaning of 'without lawful excuse'

The threat to kill must be made 'without lawful excuse'. Therefore a threat made in self defence to prevent an attack or a crime may constitute a lawful excuse, provided that it was reasonable in the circumstances to make such a threat; what was reasonable is a question for the jury.

Where the defendant raises lawful excuse it is for the prosecution to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, the absence of lawful excuse. If there is no evidence which could give rise to a lawful excuse it is incumbent upon the judge to direct the jury accordingly.

Making 'threats'

Under OATPA 1861 the threat must be made 'by a person' and not on behalf of a third party.

A threat may

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