Murder and Voluntary Manslaughter (Special Defences to Murder)

My notes (a distinctly shortened version of them!) for: Murder (Actus Reus, Mens Rea, A02 points etc) and Voluntary Manslaughter (Diminished Responsiblity, Provocation etc)

More will be up soon on other areas of law, i.e. non fatal, property offences etc. Just have to type them!

Please comment or message me if you spot any mistakes as I'd like to know if I've been revising the wrong thing!!!

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  • Created by: Vixxx92
  • Created on: 17-05-11 20:09
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3) Murder and Defences to Murder (Voluntary Manslaughter)
What is Murder?
Murder is a common law offence- it has not been defined by any act of parliament
The generally accepted definition is from the 17th century one given by Lord Coke: altered only slightly to take into account the Law Reform (Year
and a Day Rule) Act (1996)
"Murder is the unlawful killing of a reasonable person in being, in a country of the realm and under the Queen's peace with malice aforethought,
express or implied."
The Actus Reus
The unlawful killing
o May be by act or omission (see R v Gibbins and Proctor 1918)
o Must result in death (murder is a result crime), therefore the issue of causation must be carefully considered in murder cases
o No break in the chain of causation
o Must be unlawful, i.e. not in self defence:
The Criminal Law Act (1967) states that `a person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of
crime'. This may be used as a defence to murder.
If excessive force is used the defence will fail:
R v Clegg (1995) ­ D was a soldier at a checkpoint in N. Ireland. A car sped towards him without stopping so he shot at the
windscreen and as it passed him (therefore there was no danger when this particular shot was fired). Guilty.
Of a reasonable creature in being (A human being)
o A foetus is not considered to be a human being for the purposes of murder
o A child must have an existence independent of its mother (have been expelled from her body and have an independent circulation)
Attorney-General's Reference (No 3 of 1994) (1997) ­ D stabbed his pregnant girlfriend in the stomach. She recovered but the
baby was born some 10 weeks early and died 4 months later as a result. HoL held that where the foetus died before birth it was not
a `reasonable creature in being' and not murder/manslaughter, stating obiter that violence to a foetus which resulted in death after
birth could lead to criminal liability.
o Furthermore it is uncertain as to whether or not a person who is suffering from brain death would be counted as a `reasonable creature in
being' or not
In a country of the realm
o A matter of jurisdiction: murder committed in England and Wales, committed abroad by a British Citizen, on British registered ships etc.
Under the Queen's peace

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We are all considered to be `under the queens peace' in law unless we are an enemy of the state in war (not a PoW)
R v Page (1954) ­ D stationed in Egypt during the Suez Crisis and killed a native in a bar fight. In battle would have been not guilty but
bar situation meant V was under QP, guilty.…read more

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Discuss Fred's liability for the murder of John.…read more

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This defence becomes more complicated when mixed with the issue of intoxication:
Intoxication alone ­ not diminished responsibility
Intoxication and a pre existing abnormality of mind :
R v Gittens (1984) ­ D suffered from depression and had medication for this problem. One night he drank a lot and took several of these pills
before clubbing his wife to death and strangling his step daughter.…read more

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It does not necessarily have to be aimed at the D himself:
R v Davies (1975) ­ Found out wife was having an affair, taunted by the lover and so provoked in to killing wife. Appeal was rejected but
CoA stated obiter that provocation could come from 3rd parties and not directly from the victim.…read more

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AO2 Points on the Law of Provocation
s3 of the Homicide Act does not explain properly what can amount to provocation except for saying `by things done or by things said or by both
THEREFORE by way of statutory interpretation things done or said has been given an extremely wide meaning (Doughty)
The issue is raised by the defence but proved by the prosecution ­ why the difference between this and diminished responsibility?
Relevant characteristics of the reasonable man too wide, badly explained by…read more


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