VOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTE R. LAW03: Criminal Law (Offences against
VOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTE R. LAW03: Criminal Law (Offences against the Person). There are 3 special defences* that apply only to murder and will, if successful, reduce the charge of murder to voluntary manslaughter. Instead of the D receiving a mandatory life sentence the judge has discretion as to what sentence should be imposed (anything up to life). *for the purposes of the examination only diminished responsibility and loss of control need to be studied.
DIMINISHED RESPONSIBILITY. Diminished responsibility was introduced by the Homicide Act 1957 and did not exist in English law until that time. The defence is set out in s. 2(1) Homicide Act 1957 as amended by s. 52 Coroners and Justice Act 2009. "A person who kills or is party to a killing of another is not to be convicted of 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: Understand the nature of his conduct; or Form a rational judgement; or Exercise self-control; and c) Provides an explanation for D's acts and omissions in doing or being party to the killing." ABNORMALITY OF MENTAL FUNCTIONING. What is an abnormality of mental functioning? It is likely that the courts will use the old definition of "abnormality of mind" in Byrne
(1960) to define this. The courts defined abnormality as: " a state of mind so different from that of ordinary human beings that the reasonable man would term it abnormal." BYRNE (1960) D was a sexual psychopath who strangled a woman and mutilated her body. Medical evidence stated that because of
his condition he was unable to control his perverted desires. The D's conviction for murder was quashed and a conviction for manslaughter was substituted instead. CAUSE OF THE ABNORMALITY OF MENTAL FUNCTIONING. The cause of the abnormality of mental functioning must be a recognised medical
condition. There must be medical evidence given at the trial to prove this. The term recognised medical condition is wide enough to cover both psychological and physical conditions such as: Mental deficiency Speake (1957); Pre-menstrual tension Smith (1982); Chronic depression Gittens (1984); Battered women's syndrome Ahluwalia (1993); Bipolar disorder, paranoid depression, schizophrenia etc; Physical conditions such as epilepsy, sleep disorders or diabetes. SUBSTANTIALLY IMPAIRED. The abnormality of mental functioning must substantially
impair the D's mental responsibility for his acts or omissions. Byrne states that the question of whether impairment was substantial or not is one of degree and for the jury to decide. Lloyd (1967) stated that 'substantial' does not mean 'total' or 'trivial' but means something in between. WHAT MUST BE SUBSTANTIALLY IMPAIRED? The D's ability to do one of 3 things must be substantially impaired To understand the nature of his conduct; or To form a rational judgement; or To exercise self-control..
These 3 points were originally decided in Byrne and then incorporated into the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. TO UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF HIS CONDUCT. This will be where the D is in an automatic state and therefore does not know what he is doing. It also covers situations where the D is suffering from delusions and believes, for example, that he is killing the devil when he is actually killing a person. It would also cover situations where the D has severe learning difficulties and their mental age is so low that they would not understand what they were doing. TO FORM A RATIONAL
JUDGEMENT. Even if the D does know the nature of his conduct he may not be able to form a rational judgement about his acts or omissions. Ds that suffer from paranoia, schizophrenia or battered women's syndrome, for example, may not be able to make a rational judgement about their behaviour. TO EXERCISE SELFCONTROL. This was the situation in Byrne. The D was a sexual psychopath and the medical evidence was that his condition meant he was unable to control his perverted desires. This is why he was allowed a defence of diminished responsibility.
PROVIDES AN EXPLANATION FOR D'S CONDUCT. The D must prove that the abnormality of mental functioning provides an explanation for his acts or omissions. There must be a causal link between the abnormality and the killing. Did the abnormality of mental functioning cause the killing? s. 1B of the Homicide Act 1957 states: " an abnormality of mental functioning provides an explanation for D's conduct if it causes or is a significant contributory factor in causing, D to carry out that conduct." DIMINISHED RESPONSIBILITY AND
INTOXICATION. The defence of diminished responsibility becomes more complicated if the D is also intoxicated at the time of the killing. The first point to note is that intoxication on its own cannot support a defence of diminished responsibility. The D's conviction for murder was upheld on the basis that voluntary acute intoxication is not capable of founding the defence of
diminished responsibility. DOWDS (2012) The D and his girlfriend, V, were binge drinkers and D, in a drunken state, stabbed V 60 times and killed her. D was convicted of murder but appealed on the grounds that his 'acute intoxication'
should have been submitted to the jury as a possible defence of diminished responsibility. INTOXICATION AND A PREEXISTING ABNORMALITY OF MENTAL FUNCTIONING. There can be difficulties when the D has some abnormality of mental functioning but is also intoxicated at
the time he does the killing. D was convicted of murder and appealed. The HL allowed the appeal and voluntary manslaughter, based on diminished responsibility, was substituted. As long as D satisfied the criteria of diminished responsibility the affect of the intoxication is ignored. DIETSCHM ANN (2003)
D was upset as he believed the V was acting disrespectfully towards the D's recently deceased aunt. D killed V. Psychiatrists agreed that D was suffering from an adjustment order in the form
of 'depressed grief reaction'. They disagreed on whether this had substantially impaired his mental responsibility as he was also intoxicated at the time of the killing. So, the jury need to decide: 1.
If the D had an abnormality of mental functioning arising from a recognised medical condition; 2. Whether the abnormality substantially impaired D's ability to understand the nature of his conduct, form a rational judgement or exercise self-control; 3. Whether the abnormality was a significant factor in causing D to kill V. INTOXICATION DUE TO
ADDICTION/DEPENDENCY. There is a recognised medical condition called Alcohol Dependency Syndrome (ADS) which means that a person has no control over their drinking. Under the old law, in the case of Tandy (1989), the CA held that where the D is unable to resist drinking (it is involuntary) a defence of diminished responsibility could be available. This decision was criticised for not considering whether alcoholism is a disease or not. The judge directed the jury that if they found the D had suffered brain damage as a result of ADS then diminished responsibility was available
but, if they didn't think the ADS had caused brain damage then diminished responsibility would not be available. WOOD (2008) D, after drinking heavily, went to the V's flat. D claimed he had fallen asleep when he awoken by the V trying to perform oral
sex on him. D repeatedly hit V with a meat cleaver and killed him. Medical experts agreed that the D was suffering from ADS but disagreed as to whether it had damaged D's brain or not. The CA set out a 3 stage test for juries to consider in these circumstances: 1.
Was the D suffering an abnormality? Just having ADS would not be enough to satisfy the defence. The nature and extent of the ADS would have to be considered. 2. If so, was D's abnormality caused by ADS (a recognised medical condition)? 3.
If so, was D's mental responsibility substantially impaired? The basic criteria of diminished responsibility are applied with the ADS simply being the recognised medical condition that caused the abnormality of mental functioning. STEWAR T (2009)
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