Voluntary Manslaughter

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Chapter 2 Voluntary manslaughter 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…show more content…
She then slashed her neck and arm with a kitchen knife and sat down in the garden shed where she hoped to die. She was ‘overwhelmed with despair’ and wanted to end her life. Yet she feared for what would happen to Patrick if she were not there. Oxford Crown Court heard that she had never thought to put her own needs before those of her son and, in the end, ‘spiralled into depression’. Markcrow, a mother of four, who admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility at an earlier hearing, survived her suicide attempt. She told police: ‘I feel sad, desperate, defeated and ashamed’. Mr Justice Gross sentenced her to two years’ prison, suspended for 18 months, and told her: ‘The pressures you faced were extreme’. 4. The original charge against the defendant would have been murder. What effect does the defence of diminished responsibility have to that charge? 5. What sentence did the judge pass on the defendant? 6. The mandatory sentence for murder is life imprisonment. Why was the judge able to pass such a lenient…show more content…
This reform was made because there had been many problems with the law on provocation. The defence was a common law one, created by judges hundreds of years ago. In 1957 the Homicide Act set out some of the tests for provocation, but did not give a complete definition. A main problem in provocation had been the test set out by the Homicide Act. This stated that the jury had to decide whether D was provoked to lose his self control and, if so, whether provocation was enough to make a reasonable man do as D did. The use of the term reasonable man initially created problems as it had been held that this meant a reasonable adult. However, in Camplin (1978), where D was a 15 year-old boy, it was held that the age and sex of D could be considered. This test is also used in the loss of control defence. It was also held in Camplin that other characteristics of D could be considered in regard to the gravity of the provocation to him. In the defence of loss of control, this has been changed to ‘circumstances’. This is wider than characteristics, though the courts had been generous in their interpretation of characteristics. This was shown by the fact that the court allowed D’s history of sexual abuse to be considered in the case of Hill (2008) (see section 2.2.4). In fact in Morhall, the House of Lords had even allowed the fact that D was addicted to

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