A2 LAW MURDER DEFENCES - DIMINISHED RESPONSIBILITY NOTES

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Diminished Responsibility
A second special defence for murder, reducing the conviction to voluntary manslaughter is DR
(Diminished responsibility) as defined in Homicide Act 1957. This statutory defence provides a
possible defence for someone who did not know what they were doing and possibly even that it
was wrong but was unable to stop himself from doing it. The defendant should have to provide
medical evidence and expert witness to support his plea.
We can break it down into three main components ­ this need to be successfully established in order
for the defendant to succeed.
a) An abnormality of mind
b) Arising from certain specified cases
c) Which substantially impairs mental responsibility.
Let's examine each component in more detail.
Abnormality of mind ­ was the accused acting abnormally?
This is really about what constitutes abnormality of mind. Lord Parker in the case of R v Byrne
defined it as: "abnormality of mind is simply a state of mind that a reasonable person would
find abnormal"
a) R v Byrne ­ The defendant strangled and horribly mutilated a young girl. He couldn't plead
insanity because he knew what he was doing. H pleaded not guilty on the grounds off DR,
claiming that since childhood he suffered uncontrollable sexual urges ­ the evidence
provided wasn't sufficient enough ­ he was convicted of murder.
Arising from certain specified cases ­ what was the cause of the abnormality
of mind?
The main question that needs to be asked is: Was the defendant acting abnormally as a result
of arrested or retarded development or inherent causes or disease or injury?
Arrested or retarded development ­ This covers mental deficiencies.
Any inherent cause ­ it is something internal. This Covers epilepsy, premenstrual tension, battered
wife syndrome and shocks. Also, depression due to chemical imbalance in the brain suffices.
a) R v Tandy ­ drink or drugs will not usually give raise to abnormality of mind unless they have
cause brain damage. In this case, the defendant stated that "she could exercise a degree of
control over her drinking problem" - this led the appeals dismissal.
b) R v Vinaigre ­ the defendant killed his wife while he was suffering from Othello syndrome ­
morbid jealousy. The conviction for murder was quashed on appeal because there was no
medical evidence to contradict Othello syndrome.
Paul C ­ LAW A2Page 1

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Which substantially impairs mental responsibility.
The abnormality of mind must have substantially impaired the defendant's mental
responsibility for his or her acts or omissions ­ matter to be decided by the jury. The use of the
word substantial indicates that the impairment need not be absolute, so the defendant is
without any responsibility, but it must be more than minimal.…read more

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