Crime XXII – Manslaughter IV

In R v Thornton (1996) we are once again presented with the opportunity to re-examine the ratio (rational) in R v Duffy (1949) and R v Ahluwalia (1993). 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 accused for murder and the accused appeal.

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

If R v Duffy (1949) were to be strictly applied the accused would have been guilty of murder because there was a time lapse before she killed him, where she had the time to go to the kitchen, grab a kitchen knife and then try and patch things up before she’d killed her husband and it was very much like saying “I’ll try and patch things up and if that doesn’t work, I’ll kill him”.

However, the jury should have taken into account the permanent characteristics of the accused, and this instance in line with R v Morhall (1995) she suffered from a permanent syndrome.

It is also worth noting that, both in R v Ahluwalia (1993) and R v Thornton (1996), while the appellants could not successfully raise the defense of provocation the appellants were allowed the defense of diminished responsibility and it stands to reason that in cases of wife abuse, especially long-term wife abuse, that the accused on a conviction of murder stands a better chance of having it reduced to manslaughter when she pleads the defense of diminished responsibility.

In order for the defense of provocation to be raised there must be clear evidence to indicate that the accused was provoked and that the provocation caused him or her, in the heat of the moment, to lose control. Anything else would be deemed or construed as murder.

In R v Acott (1997) the accused lived with his mother, despite being in his forties and he was financially dependent on her. His mother subsequently fell down a staircase and died while the ambulance was on its way. During the autopsy or postmortem, it was revealed that the mother did not die of the fall but rather died from an attack. The accused was arrested and accordingly charged with murder. The accused denied the allegations of murder but the jury nonetheless convicted the accused for murder. The accused appealed on the grounds that the judge had not advised the jury on provocation.

The appeal was quashed. There was no evidence to suggest that the accused was provoked and therefore the trial judge was right not to direct the jury on provocation. The accused was convicted on medical evidence which normally shows the time and cause of death.

In Luc Thiet Thuan (1997) (Privy Council) the accused tried to make his girlfriend reveal her atm pin code. She refused and the accused then tied her up and took her to the atm machine and tried to make her reveal the pin code at knife point. The victim refused yet again and instead she taunted and bereted the accused at which point the accused stabbed her with a knife and killed her. The accused was arrested and convicted for murder. At the trial, it was revealed that the defendant suffered from a mental impairment but the judge did not advice the jury on the medical evidence. The accused appealed.

On appeal, it was decided that the mental impairment or disability did not come into the equation because it did not affect the accused’s ability to reason with regards to committing murder. The appeal was quashed.

It was further stated that the law had taken a wrong turn in R v Newell (1980) and R v Ahluwalia (1993) by allowing the mental characteristics of the accused to be taken into account or consideration because it blurred the distinction between diminished responsibility which in most instances is attributed to some mental impairment and provocation.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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