Law- Defence of Provocation

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THE DEFENCE OF PROVOCATION

There are three special defences to the charge of murder. These defences are: provocation, diminished responsibility and suicide pact. These defences were introduced in the Homicide Act 1957 because it was felt that the charge of murder might be unfair and harsh in some circumstances. It is important to remember that the special defences are partial defences; they do not acquit the defendant of the charge but reduce it to voluntary manslaughter.

One of the key advantages to being convicted of manslaughter rather than murder is that the judge can avoid imposing the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment. For manslaughter the sentence is at the judge’s discretion.

Provocation

Section 3 of the Homicide Act 1957 states: ‘Where there is evidence that the person charged with murder was provoked (by things done or said or both) the question as to whether it would make a reasonable man do this is left to the jury’.

A wide range of things said or done can constitute provocation. It must be left entirely to the jury to decide what constitutes provocation. The provocation need not even be deliberate on the part of the victim. In Doughty (1986), a man killed his 19-day-old child who would not stop crying. The jury accepted the defence of provocation, and the charged was reduced to voluntary manslaughter.

R v Duffy (1949) established that for provocation to succeed as a defence there must have been ‘A sudden and temporary loss of self control, rendering the accused so subject to passion as to make him or her for the moment not master of his mind.’ In other words, the defendant must have been so sorely provoked that he experienced a sudden and temporary loss of control and became so passionate that he was for a brief time not master of his own mind. In other words, he ‘saw red’ and ‘lost it’.

Duffy (1949) has been updated and…...

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