Voluntary Manslaughter

Voluntary Manslaughter

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  • Created on: 25-01-11 22:40
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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
probabilities'.
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.
Sentencing
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
abnormal.
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
judgement.
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
drinking.
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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If the jury accepts the defence, the judge has complete discretion in sentencing. Sentences vary from life
imprisonment to absolute discharge. However, the Sentencing Guidelines Council suggested (in Nov. '05) that 3 ­ 12
years is appropriate.
Examples of Provocation
Causes of the abnormality must be internal. Examples include:
Physical Assaults ­ Pearson (1992)
2 brothers were on trial for the murder of their violent, tyrannical father with a sledgehammer.…read more

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The reasonable man shares such of the defendant's characteristics as the jury think would affect the
gravity of the situation.
In the above case, the House of Lords gave some examples of characteristics which could affect the gravity of
the situation (provocation) where the acts were aimed at one of those characteristics.
Age
Sex
Race
Colour
Ethnic origin
Physical deformity
Infirmity
Shameful incident in the past
Abscess on the cheek
Pregnancy
Menstruation
Other cases since have laid down other characteristics.…read more

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Some (e.g. women's rights groups) have criticised these proposals as someone suffering from BWS would be
labelled a murderer.
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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