Voluntary manslaughter: Loss of control

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Definition of voluntary manslaughter- This is where murder appears to have been satisfied (Both actus reus and mens rea) but one of two possible defences granted by statue can be successfully pleaded. The defendant can not be charged with voluntary manslaughter. He is charged with murder- then if, at his trial, he successfully pleads one of these two defences, he will be convicted of voluntary manslaughter.

The law on voluntary manslaughter is a mixture of statute and common law rules on interpretation. The defences are set out in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 and the Homocide Act 1957. They are :

  • Loss of Control
  • Diminished responsibility

These defences are only available to a charge of murder, which is why they are refferred to as special. Their effect is to reduce the conviction from murder to manslaughter, enabling the judge to pass a discretionary sentence instead of a mandatory life sentence.

Loss of control replaces defence of provocation

Section 54 Coroners and Justice Act 2009 abolished the defence of provocation. The defence of provocation allowed a defence in circumstances where the defendant killed whilst suffering a sudden tempory loss of control on account of provoking words or conduct and acted as a reasonable man would have done in the situation. The new defence is defined under section 54 and states:

  • Where a person kills or is the party to the killing of another, the defendfant is not to be convicted of murder if:
  • (i) The defendants acts and omissions resulted from the defendant's loss of self-control
  • (ii) The loss of self-control had a qualifying trigger
  • (iii) A person of the defendants age and sex, with a normal degree of tolerance and self-restraint and in the circumstances of the defendant, might have reacted in a similar way

The loss of self-control

Section 54 states that the loss of self-control doesnt have to be sudden. In other words, there may be a time delay between the qualifying trigger and the reaction of the defendant killing the victim. However, there must still be a loss of self-control. Therefore the longer the delay, the less likely the jury is to believe that the killing resulted from a loss of self-control.

IMBRAMS AND GREGORY- There will be no defence to murder where the defendant is motivated by a desire for revenge. The defendants were found guilty of murder but appealed on the grounds that they had been provoked by the victim's threatining behaviour. This appeal was turned down as their crime had been planned over a number of days and there was no sudden loss of self-control.

The longer the gap between the trigger and…

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