Voluntary Manslaughter

Any errors/changes be they legal or typographical - let me know and I will rectify them ASAP.

My apologies - the provocation information will be out of date now as the 12 month rule for new legislation will have expired for new A2 students.  When I come to revising my Criminal Law module at Easter for my degree I will endeavor to update to Loss of Control.

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Voluntary Manslaughter
Voluntary manslaughter is where the defendant had the intention to kill the victim. The defendant is charged with
murder ­ as (s)he has the actus reus and mens rea for murder, but raises a special defence which reduces the charge to
that of manslaughter under the Homicide Act 1957. It does NOT result in an acquittal.
Diminished Responsibility
"The defendant is suffering from an abnormality of mind, caused by arrested or retarded development of the mind,
an inherent cause, disease or injury which substantially impaired his mental responsibility for the killing."
s. 2(1), The Homicide Act 1957
The defence must prove the defendant was suffering from diminished responsibility. The test is on the `balance of
The judge will tell the jury whether or not there is evidence of diminished responsibility and the jury must then decide
whether or not the defence has made the case substantial.
If the jury holds that diminished responsibility has been proven, then the verdict is manslaughter.
If the jury holds that diminished responsibility has NOT been proven, then the verdict is murder.
If the jury accepts the defence, the judge has complete discretion in sentencing. Sentences vary from life
imprisonment to absolute discharge.
Elements of Diminished Responsibility
D must be suffering from an abnormality of mind
Caused by arrested or retarded development of the mind, an inherent cause, disease or injury
Which substantially impaired D's mental responsibility for the killing.
Abnormality of Mind
This is a state of mind which is so different from that of ordinary human beings that the reasonable man would term it
Byrne (1960)
D was a sadistic sexual psychopath who dismembered his victims after raping them.
The `abnormality of mind' may cover:
1. The perception of physical acts and matters;
2. To form a rational judgement as to whether the act is right or wrong;
3. The ability to exercise willpower to control physical acts in accordance with that rational
Seers (1984)
D, who was suffering from chronic reactive depression, killed his wife.
Comparisons with insanity are to be avoided.

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Causes of the Abnormality
Causes of the abnormality must be internal. Examples include:
Psychopathy ­ Byrne (1960)
D was a sadistic sexual psychopath who dismembered his victims after raping them.
The `abnormality of mind' may cover...
Paranoia ­ Martin (Anthony Edward) (2003)
D shot two intruders who entered his house in the middle of the night. It was shown that he shot one in
the back. New evidence brought out on appeal showed he was suffering Paranoid Personality Disorder.…read more

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Alcohol Dependency Syndrome (ADS) can be an abnormality of mind as the jury must consider the effects of involuntary
Wood (2008)
D, after drinking heavily, went to V's flat. They fell to sleep and D claimed to have awoken to V trying to
perform oral sex on him. D hit V repeatedly with a meat cleaver.
ADS can be an abnormality of mind.…read more

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"There is evidence on which the jury can find that the person charged was provoked (by things said or done or both)
to lose his self control and that a reasonable man might have acted in a similar way."
s. 3(1), The Homicide Act 1957
The defence must raise the defence and the judge will then decide if there is evidence for the defence to be left to the
jury.…read more

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Time Lapse
Ibrams & Gregory (1981)
D and his girlfriend made plans to kill her ex-boyfriend because he had been terrorising them. They spent
5 days planning before killing him.
The longer the time lapse between the provocation and the killing, the less likely that the defence will succeed.
Thornton (No. 2) (1996)
V told D that he would kill her when she was in bed. D went to the kitchen and sharpened a bread knife.…read more

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Morhall (1995)
D, after several lengthy sessions of glue sniffing, stabbed and killed his friend.
The jury could be directed to take into account the entire factual situation and the fact that D's characteristics
may be discreditable did not exclude it from consideration. D's glue sniffing was therefore taken into account as
a characteristic of a reasonable man.…read more

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The Law Commission though that the label would be appropriate as the person would have the mens rea for
murder ­ as there is intention.
Judges would be given the option to withdraw the defence from the jury when the provocation was trivial.
The defence would be extended to those who over-reacted in response to fear or serious violence.…read more


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