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general defences

Common-law defences to any common-law or statutory crimes; with one exception (*insanity), these defences relate to *involuntary conduct (however, *duress by threats is no defence to murder as *principal in the first degree). A defendant should be acquitted when the magistrates or jury have a reasonable doubt as to whether he was entitled to a general defence. By contrast, special defences are confined to individual offences, are usually of statutory origin, and usually place a *burden of proof on the defendant to show that he acted reasonably. See also *automatism; *impossibility; *mistake; *self-defence.

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