voluntary manslaughter

sample chapter aqa on voluntary manslaughter

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Chapter 2
T here are three special defences to a charge of murder. These are where the
killing occurs when the defendant is under:
· diminished responsibility;
· loss of control; or
· a suicide pact.
Diminished responsibility and suicide are set out in the Homicide Act 1957. Loss
of control is set out in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. These defences are
available only to murder. They are also only partial defences: this means that the
defendant is not completely acquitted. Instead, when one of these defences is
successful, the offence of murder is reduced to manslaughter.
This is important because it means that the judge has discretion in the sentence
which he imposes. When a person is found guilty of murder the judge has to
pass a sentence of life imprisonment. However, for manslaughter the judge can
choose any sentence which is suitable. This means that where the defendant is
dangerous and his mental problems cannot be treated then the judge may pass a
sentence of life imprisonment as happened in Byrne (1960) (see 2.1.2). However,
if the defendant is not dangerous then he or she may be given a short term of
imprisonment or even a community sentence. If the defendant has mental
problems which can be treated, then the most suitable sentence is one which
orders the defendant to have treatment, either in a hospital or in the community.
For this Unit of the AQA specification only diminished responsibility and loss of
control are studied.

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AQA Law for A2
2.1 Diminished responsibility Byrne (1960)
This defence was introduced by the Homicide Act
1957. It did not exist in English law until then. The defendant was a sexual psychopath who
Before 1957 if a person with mental problems strangled a young woman and then mutilated
killed, then their only defence was insanity. The her body.…read more

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Voluntary manslaughter 29
In Lloyd (1967) it was held that substantial Ability to understand the nature of his
does not mean total, nor does it mean trivial or
minimal. It is something in between and it is for
the jury to decide if the defendant's mental This covers situations such as where D is in an
responsibility is impaired and, if so, whether it is automatic state and does not know what he is
substantially impaired. However, as it is a doing.…read more

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AQA Law for A2
D's abnormality of mental functioning and the in addition, is intoxicated at the time he does the
killing. killing. This occurred in Dietschmann (2003).
Section 1B of the Homicide Act 1957 explains
this principle further as it states:
Dietschmann (2003)
`...…read more

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Voluntary manslaughter 31
approach is likely to be that the jury must decide:
was convicted. The Court of Appeal dismissed
q if D had an abnormality of mental functioning her appeal because Tandy had not shown that
arsing from a recognised medical condition; her brain had been injured (a test under the old
q whether the abnormality substantially law) or that her drinking was involuntary.…read more

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AQA Law for A2
When hearing the appeal in the case Wood, the
Court of Appeal considered the effect of the Self-Test Questions
judgment in Dietschmann on the decision in
Tandy. They held that Alcohol Dependency 1. Which section of which Act sets out the
Syndrome could be considered as a possible defence of diminished responsibility?
source of abnormality of mind (now mental 2. What is the effect of a successful defence
functioning). This was for the jury to decide.…read more

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Voluntary manslaughter 33
recommended that the definition of diminished 2.1.9 Problems remaining in the law
responsibility should be modernised so as to take
into account changing medical knowledge. Although the Coroners and Justice Act has
The changes made by the 2009 Act have done resolved many of the previous problems in the
that. By using the phrase `recognised medical law, there are still some areas where difficulties
condition' the definition should now be flexible remain.
enough to allow for future developments in
medical knowledge.…read more

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AQA Law for A2
There is also the possibility that putting the should also be included within the definition of
burden of proof on the defendant may be a diminished responsibility.…read more

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Voluntary manslaughter 35
juvenile offenders. This is true but `developmental death. The loss of self-control does not have to be
immaturity' is not the same as learning disability. sudden. This was a rule of the former defence of
If there is no such defence, children as young provocation. It led to some defendants being
as 10 may be convicted of murder when they are unable to use the defence as their loss of control
developmentally immature. They cannot use the was not sudden.…read more

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AQA Law for A2
(b) caused D to have a justifiable sense of q they were of an `extremely grave character' and
being seriously wronged. q they caused D to have a justifiable sense of
being seriously wronged.
Alternatively, the qualifying trigger can be a
combination of these two matters. These tests were not in the old law on
provocation. This means that the defence of loss
Fear of violence of control is narrower than the old defence of
provocation.…read more


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