Revision notes for Criminal Law on Voluntary Manslaughter. Suitable for AS level Law.

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  • Created on: 21-01-08 09:36

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This is where D is charged with murder but pleads on of the 3 special defences (i.e. says
not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter)
The 3 special defences are:
Diminished Responsibility
[Suicide Pact]
If the defence is successful D is acquitted of murder and convicted of manslaughter
The prosecution must still first prove the AR and MR of murder
The 3 special defences are set out in the Homicide Act 1957 and can only be applied in
cases of murder
They are partial defences as they don not lead to a complete acquittal if successful
This is covered by the Homicide Act 1957 s2
It is traditionally viewed as a form of temporary insanity however it is much wider than
Note that it is not the same as the defence of insanity as it is not permanent insanity
With DR the burden of proof is in the defendant at the civil standard (i.e. around 50%)
The HA 1957 s2 says:
Where D kills a person they shall not be convicted of murder if:
they were suffering from an abnormality of mind
caused by: arrested or retarded mental development
any inherent causes
induced by disease or injury
which substantially impaired D's mental responsibility for their conduct
Abnormality of Mind:
Abnormality of mind comes under common law so has no set definition. Its current
definition is:
a state of mind so different to that of an ordinary human being that a reasonable
man would consider it abnormal (Byrne 1960)
It covers the activities of the mind in all its aspects e.g. ability to make a rational
judgement re. right and wrong (Byrne 1960)
(53)R v Byrne (1960) ­ set out above definition and introduced irresistible urges
Abnormality of mind is a broad concept and includes things such as disassociate illnesses
(Prince 1971), premenstrual tension (Reynolds1988), irresistible impulses (Byrne 1960)
Causes of Abnormality of Mind:
There abnormality must be due to one of three specified causes:
Arrested/retarded mental development
any inherent causes
induced by disease or injury

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The causes have been subject to broad interpretation and now include brain injury and
multiple forms of depression (reactive, general, paranoia, premenstrual tension etc.…read more

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D's Loss of Self Control:
If the jury decide that D did not lose his self control then D must be convicted of murder
D loss of self control must be sudden/temporary and more than just anger or a loss of
temper (Duffy 1949)
The loss of control must be such that D is unable to control himself even if he knows what
he is doing (Richens 1993)
When looking at whether the loss of self control was sudden you must consider the
timelapse between…read more


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