Crime XXXIII – Diminished Responsibility II

In R v Lloyd (1966) the accused strangled his wife. The accused was arrested and charged. At the trial, the defense brought to light the fact that the accused suffered from a mental abnormality but there was no evidence to indicate that the mental abnormality that he suffered from would impair his ability to reason.

The trial judge directed the jury to the effect that they should decide based on the evidence that was presented to them if the mental abnormality constituted substantial impairment or otherwise. If the jury found that that the mental impairment was substantial then they should convict for manslaughter, otherwise they should convict for murder.

The jury convicted for murder and the accused appealed on the grounds that “abnormality of mental functioning” as per S. 2 (1) of the Homicide Act (1957) meant that the mental impairment should be more than trivial and not substantial in the ordinary sense of the word. His appeal was based on the premise that the level of mental impairment that was required to escape a conviction for murder need only be more than trivial and that the trial judge had erred in his direction to the jury.

The appeal was dismissed and it was decided that the trial judge had not erred in his direction. The jury is to decide whether the mental impairment that the accused in a murder trial raises on a charge of murder is substantial or sufficient to allow the accused to successfully raise the defense of diminished responsibility based on the evidence that is presented.

Now what if the killing is done out of love or compassion? If the accused suffers from a long term mental illness like depression than that is sufficient to raise the defense of diminished responsibility and the accused will not be guilty of murder but rather manslaughter.

In Price (1971), The Times, 22 December 1971, the accused allowed his terminally ill son to drown. The accused was arrested and charged but he was convicted not of murder but of manslaughter and the killing of his son was not seen as murder because the accused had allowed him to drown out of compassion and the accused’s decision was linked to his long-term depression. This type of killing is known as mercy killing or killing on compassionate grounds.

Is this type of killing different from infanticide in cases where the mother knows for certain that the child will not have a good life ahead or will have a life that is filled with hardship, especially when the mother suffers from depression which is an extremely common illness? That is for a court to decide but I don’t think it is too different.

In the United States alone over 17% of the population suffer from depression. These include young mothers who come from broken or dysfunctional homes. Many teenage mothers have either been physically or sexually abused themselves and from personal experience I can say for certain that the percentage of women that are abused is much higher than what is commonly perceived.

Just to thrown in some statistics, over 75% of the women I’ve dated and women that I have met as friends have complained, and it started from a very young age, that they were abused in some way, shape or form and as a result they get depressed and some of them resort to medication and the abuse is normally by a parent or parents or someone either or both parents are close to including relatives or family friends or someone the parent or parents have brought into their lives. From this aspect, the findings of various agencies with regards to sexual abuse is correct.

None of these women can be described as failures in life and some of them went on to have successful careers but the reason I point this is out is because the statics don’t really tell the true story and I’m of the belief that many of these figures have been watered down.

Abortion for example is something that many women go through and while most of us may think that it is a simple procedure, it is something that can have long term or lasting effects and women, some of them anyway, don’t really seem to get over it and it sometimes leaves a lasting impression that later manifests into a mental illness like depression. So, when it comes to things like diminished responsibility or mental illnesses like depression it is best to keep an open mind.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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