Crime CXIX – Self Defense IX

With reference to the decision in R v Bird (1985), it may seem or look like, to most of us anyway, that the court should impose a duty to back away or a duty to retreat prior to granting or allowing the defendant to raise the defense to self-defense however the decision in R v Bird (1985), is not without its merits.

One of the reasons that the courts are reluctant to impose a duty to back away or a duty to retreat in situations like that in R v Bird (1985) is because it may place the defendant in greater danger and decisions like the decision in R v Bird (1985) become more relevant in the area of psychological profiling.

There is nothing to suggest that the defendant backing away, or retreating, for that matter, will make the attacker relent. If anything, it tends to suggest the opposite, especially in areas of spouse or wife abuse where the wife or spouse’s helplessness or weakness to some extent aggravates the situation as implied by the facts in cases like R v Duffy (1949), R v Ahluwalia (1993) and R v Thornton (1996).

In R v Thornton (1996), the victim was particularly abusive towards his wife and on the day in question he threw his wife out of the house after abusing her together with a suitcase filled with her clothes.

She returned later that day and tried to patch things up and the victim was even more abusive towards her. She then went into the kitchen and grabbed hold of a kitchen knife and she tried to patch things up again, but her husband continued to be abusive and finally she stabbed him in the stomach with the kitchen knife and killed him.

She was charged with murder and at her trial she raised the defense of diminished responsibility, but she did not raise the defense of provocation. The judge however did direct the jury on provocation. The jury convicted the defendant for murder and the defendant appealed.

Her appeal was allowed in line with the decision in R v Ahluwalia (1993). It was found that the defendant suffered from a syndrome called battered women’s syndrome.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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