Unit 3 - Voluntary Manslaughter

  • Created by: Georgia
  • Created on: 22-03-16 16:55

There are 3 special defences to a charge of murder;

  1. Diminished Responsibility - Homicide Act 1957

  2. Loss of Control - Coroners and Justice Act 2009

  3. Suicide Pact - Homicide Act 1957

They are partial defences meaning that if one of these defences is successful then the offence of murder is reduced to manslaughter.


Diminished Responsibility

  • Set out in the s 2(1) Homicide Act as amended by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. The effect of this section is;

A person who kills or is a party to the killing of another is not to be convicted or murder if he was suffering from an abnormality of mental functioning which;

a) Arose from a recognised medical condition

b) Substantially impaired D's ability to:

  1. Understand the nature of his conduct; or

  2. Form a rational judgement; or

  3. Exercise self-control and

c) Provide an explanation for D's acts and omissions in doing or being a party to the killing

  1. The burden of proof is on the defendant, but D need only prove it on the balance of probabilities


Abnormality of mental functioning - Recognised Medical condition

  • The Coroners and Justice Act 2009 amended the definition of diminished responsibility. The phrase was 'abnormality of mind'.

  • In Byrne (1960) - The Court of Appeal described this as 'a state of mind so different from that of ordinary human beings that the reasonable man would term it abnormal'.

  • The defendant was a sexual psychopath who strangled and mutilated a woman.              Medical evidence was that his abnormality of mind meant he was unable to control his pervert desires. Convicted of manslaughter.

  • The test created for abnormality of mental functioning - D's mental functioning was so different from that of an ordinary human being that the reasonable man would term it abnormal and it must arise from a 'recognised medical condition'

  • This includes; psychological and physical conditions, mental disorder, depressive illness, paranoia, battered woman syndrome, epilepsy, sleep disorders or diabetes.


Abnormality off mental functioning - Substantial impairment

  • The abnormality must substantially impair the D mental responsibility for his acts or omissions in doing or being a party to the killing

  • D's ability to do one of 3 things must be substantially impaired

  1. To understand the nature of his conduct

  • D is an automatic state and doesn't know what he is doing

  • D suffers from delusions e.g. Thinks that he is killing the devil but is actually killing someone

  • D has sever learning difficulties/very low mental age so he doesn't understand what they are doing

  1. To form a rational judgement

  • D does not know the nature of his conduct

  • D suffers from paranoia or schizophrenia

  • Battered women's syndrome

  1. To exercise self control

  • Byrne 1960


Provides an explanation for D's conduct

  • D has to prove that the abnormality of mental functioning provides an explanation for his acts (or omissions)

  • There has to be a casual connection between the abnormality of mental functioning and the killing

  • It must be a significant factor in the killing




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