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Published: Fri, 02 Feb 2018
Unlawful homicide and police powers
Pass Two- Main Rules On Voluntary Manslaughter
Voluntary manslaughter is pleaded as a special and partial defence to murder. Voluntary manslaughter is a special defence which can only be pleaded in defence to murder and not for other criminal offences. A defendant charged with murder can plead for voluntary manslaughter as a partial defence because it would allow the judge to exercise discretion for choosing the appropriate sentence based on the facts of each individual case. The special defences to murder are diminished responsibility, provocation and the suicide pact which reduce the conviction of murder to voluntary manslaughter.
The defendant Roy Cropper would be held liable for murder because the malice aforethought to commit the act which caused the victim’s death is present. A defendant who has applied the malice aforethought to commit the act which caused the victim’s death cannot be held liable for murder if the defendant was suffering from diminished responsibility or the defendant committed the act in provocation.
The defendant Roy Cropper who has applied the malice aforethought would not be held liable for murder because the defendant was suffering from diminished responsibility. The burglars burgled the defendant’s house four times which affected the defendant Roy Cropper’s mental responsibility of the mind because he began to think that he was in fear of being attacked by the burglars at night. A defendant who pleads either diminished responsibility or provocation as a defence to murder would not be convicted for murder and the appropriate sentence would be set for voluntary manslaughter at the judge’s discretion.
In R v Martin (Anthony)  the defendant was initially charged with murder because he had killed an intruder who came to burgle the Norfolk farmhouse where the defendant lived. There were two intruders and the defendant used a shotgun to shoot the intruders as a consequence one was seriously injured and the other had died suffering from the gunshot wounds. It was held that the defendant was suffering diminished responsibility and the liability of murder was reduced to voluntary manslaughter.
Provocation (Special Defence)
Provocation can only be pleaded as a defence to murder. A defendant who is able to successfully plead provocation it would reduce the liability for murder to manslaughter. The law of provocation is contained in the Homicide Act 1957 s.3. In s.3 of the Homicide Act 1957 it states that:
“The jury that can find evidence on which they could prove the person charged had been provoked (whether by things said or done or by both) to lose self control, the question whether the provocation was enough to make a reasonable man do as the defendant did is left to the jury to make the decision; in determining the question the jury must take into account all the things said or done and the effect it would have on a reasonable man.
In R v Baillie  the defendant’s youngest son told the defendant that a drug was supplying drugs to all his sons had threatened to punish them for changing to different dealer. The defendant went into a rage and armed with a shotgun and razor, drove immediately to the dealer’s house. The defendant seriously injured the dealer with a razor and as the dealer was trying to escape the defendant shot and killed the dealer. It was held in court that the defendant had remained out of control and there was no time to cool down between the provocation and the killing therefore the defendant had succeeded in pleading for provocation as a defence to murder.
If the jury can find evidence which shows that the amount of provocation was enough to make a reasonable man lose self control with no cooling down period between the provocation and the killing and the defendant has lost self control within the moment of the killing. A defendant can succeed in pleading for provocation as a special defence to murder which would partially reduce the liability of murder to voluntary manslaughter.
Diminished Responsibility (Special Defence)
Diminished Responsibility is a special defence which can only be pleaded in defence to a murder charge. A defendant should not be convicted of murder if the defendant was suffering from diminished responsibility within the moment of killing.
The law of diminished responsibility is contained in the Homicide Act 1957 s.2 subsection (1) which states that, “Where a person kills or is party to a killing, he shall not be convicted of murder if he was suffering from such abnormality of mind (whether arising from a condition of arrested or retarded development of mind or any inherent causes or induced by disease or injury) as substantially impaired his mental responsibility for his acts or omissions in doing or being party to the killing”.
In R v Byrne  the defendant had strangled a woman to death and mutilated her body in a YWCA. The defendant was convicted of murder to which the defendant appealed. In R v Byrne  the defendant was a sexual psychopath who found it difficult, or impossible to have control over his perverted sexual desires. The irresistible impulses are relevant to diminished responsibility. Lord Parker defined abnormality of mind as:
“The state of mind so different from that of ordinary human beings that a reasonable man would term it abnormal. It appears to us to be wide enough to cover the mind’s activities in all its aspects, not only the perception of physical acts and matters, and the ability to form a rational judgment as to whether an act is right or wrong, but also the ability to exercise willpower to control physical acts in accordance with that rational judgment.”
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