Barton v Armstrong

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Barton v Armstrong
Court Privy Council
Full case name Alexander Barton, Appellant v. Alexander Ewan Armstrong and Others, Respondents
Decided December 5, 1973 (1973-12-05)
Citation(s) [1973] UKPC 27, [1976] AC 104
Case history
Appealed from Court of Appeal of New South Wales
Case opinions
Lord Cross, Lord Wilberforce, Lord Simon
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Lord Simon, Lord Cross, Lord Kilbrandon, Garfield Barwick

Barton v Armstrong [1973] UKPC 27 is an Australian/English contract law case relating to duress. It held that a person who agrees to a contract under physical duress may avoid the contract, even if the duress was not the main reason for agreeing to the bargain.


Mr Barton was the managing director of a company, whose main business was in property development. Its main projects were going through ‘Paradise Waters (Sales) Pty Ltd’. Barton made a deed so the company agreed to pay $140,000 to Alexander Armstrong, a state politician, and buy his shares for $180,000. Mr Armstrong was the chairman of the board.

Street J found Mr Armstrong had threatened to have Mr Barton killed. But the NSW Court of Appeal said Mr Barton failed to discharge the onus that the threat had caused him to make the contract.


The Privy Council advised that Mr Barton could avoid the contract for being under duress, and it did not matter that he may have agreed to the deal any way. Lord Cross, Lord Kilbrandon and Sir Garfield Barwick held that physical duress does not need to be the main reason, it must merely be one reason for entering an agreement. Lord Cross said the same rule should apply for duress as in misrepresentation, ‘that if Armstrong’s threats were ‘a’ reason for Barton’s executing the deed he is entitled to relief even though he might well have entered into the contract if Armstrong had uttered no threats to induce him to do so…’

Lord Wilberforce and Lord Simon, dissenting jointly, held that while in substantial agreement on the law, there was no duress on the facts, but the threats needed to be at least "a" reason for entering the contract. They held the case,

The three tests for physical duress....... are to, first, ‘show that some illegitimate means of persuasion was used’ and second that ‘the illegitimate means used was a reason (not the reason, nor the predominant reason nor the clinching reason)’ and third that his evidence is ‘honest and accepted’.

See also[edit]

*Crimes Act 1900, Section 61


  1. ^ Fairbanks v. Snow, 145 Mass. 153, 13 NE 596 (1887)


External links[edit]