Diminished Responsibility Summary

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  • Diminished Responsibility
    • Found under s2 (1) of the Homicide Act 1957
    • What is required to use the defense?
      • The D must be suffering from an abnormality of mental functioning.
        • This must have arose from a recognized medical condition and  substantially impaired the D' ability to:
          • From a rational judgement
            • Those suffering from paranoia/ schizophrenia may suffer from thise, also BWS
          • Understand the nature of his conduct
            • Covers situations where the D is in a automatic state . Also where the D is suffering from delusions or mental disabilities.
          • Exercise self control
            • Applies to people who have uncontrollable impulses e.g in the case of Byrne.
        • In Byrne the COA described it as 'a state of mind so different from that of an ordinary human beings that the reasonable man would term it abnormal
    • Intoxication
      • The defense becomes more complex when the D was intoxicated at the time of the crime.
      • Intoxication alone cannot support the defense of DR itself.
        • The case of Dowds supports this, voluntary acute intoxication is not a defense under DR
      • Intoxication & a pre-existing abnormality of mental functioning
        • Dietschmann: The HOL confirmed that if the D satisfied the jury with his A.M.F even though he was intoxicated at the time then his conviction should be manslaughter, not murder.
        • Other relevant cases are Hendy & Robson.
        • If the abnormality of mental functioning is not a significant factor then it cannot be used as a defense
      • Intoxication due to addiction/ dependency
        • ADS is a recognized medical condition - Alcohol Dependency Syndrome
        • Under the case of Tandy, if the D is unable to resist drinking then it is involuntary, this could amount to diminished responsibility
          • The case of Wood determined that this matter was for the jury to decide.
        • The Test made in Stewart (for the jury)
          • 1. was the D suffering from an abnormality of mental functioning?
          • 2. If so, was the D's abnormailty caused by ADS
          • 3. If so, was the D's mental responsibility substantially impaired
    • Reforms
      • The law was reformed in the Coroners & Justice Act 2009
        • Law Commission Report: Murder Manslaughter & Infanticide 2006
          • Recommended the definition of DR be modernised so take into account changing medical knowledge
          • The definition now sets out what aspects of the D's mental functioning must be substantially impaired
      • Law Commission Report: Murder Manslaughter & Infanticide 2006
        • Recommended the definition of DR be modernised so take into account changing medical knowledge
        • The definition now sets out what aspects of the D's mental functioning must be substantially impaired
    • Problems in the remaining law
      • The burden of proof rests on the defendant. Arguably this conflicts with ART 6 of the ECHR. D's pleading DR are at a disadvantage which is not faced by those raising loss of control
      • Development Immaturity: the Law Commission recommended this to be available to those under 18. There evidence was that the frontal lobes of the brain do not mature till the age of 14

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