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R v Bunch [2013] EWCA Crim 2498; [2014] M.H.L.R. 331

MURDER, MANSLAUGHTER, DIMINISHED RESPONSIBILITY, ALCOHOLISM, MEDICAL EVIDENCE

Facts

The defendant, Bunch, murdered the victim in front of her husband by stabbing her more than 20 times after the relationship between the two ended. Bruch claimed that he was a heavy drinker and had no recollection of the killing and therefore, he was entitled to a defence of diminished responsibility under s. 2 Homicide Act 1957 and should be convicted of manslaughter instead of murder. He produced no evidence that he had an alcohol dependency syndrome, except for a description by a doctor that he was ‘an alcoholic’ as he drank far too much and a description by a mental health nurse that he was a binge drinker. A consultant psychiatrist called by the Crown said that the defendant was not physically dependant on alcohol, had not been suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the killing and there was no abnormality, impairing his mental functioning. The judge refused to leave the partial defence of diminished responsibility to the jury as there was no evidence that Brunch was suffering from mental abnormality. Brunch appealed.

Issue

Is medical evidence necessary to enable the defendant to rely on the defence of diminished responsibility under s. 2(1) Homicide Act 1957?

Held

(1) Following  R v Byrne [1960] 2 QB 396 and R v Dix  (1982) 74 Cr App R 306, medical evidence is a practical necessity if the defence of diminished responsibility under s. 2(1) Homicide Act 1957 is to succeed.

(2) The requirement was relevant whether the defendant was suffering from mental abnormality, whether that arose from medical condition, whether it impaired the ability of the defendant to understand the nature of his conduct, to form a rational judgement or to exercise self-control, or whether it caused or was a significant factor in causing him to carry out the killing.

(3) Even if the jury had found that he was suffering from alcohol dependence, in the absence of evidence, the court could not have granted Brunch the defence. The appeal was dismissed.


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