I’m sure we’ve all wondered if it is possible to commit the perfect crime, and while the term itself belongs firmly within the pages of book or a novel and has little or no practical application or implication it is worth considering some the many possibilities, if anything, just for the sake of argument.
Before we go further it is in reality difficult to commit the perfect crime because of the advances made in the field of science, in the medical field and in the field of forensics – which many people find interesting because it is essentially the field of crime solving that involves the use of modern day equipment and while the super-sleuth Sherlock Holmes relied on the powers of deduction and observation, the modern crime solver is more reliant on computers and is more at home in a lab than he or she is at a crime scene.
Our accused is the battered wife. There are various moral questions that need to be raised and I think it is fairly obvious to most people that wife abuse or partner abuse, despite the stricter or sterner rules that have been implemented in recent times, is still prevalent and it is spurred on by two factors, the first being that women are physically weaker and the second factor is that women are still very much economically reliant on their husbands or partners especially in relationships where there are children involved and as such there is the general fallacy that a certain level of abuse is acceptable or tolerable.
Wife abuse or partner abuse happens at all levels of society and it is not limited to a certain category or class of people. It really depends on the characteristics of the male partner. However it is more prevalent in minority communities and this is a factor that appears to be constant across the board.
To begin with, the abuse must be something that has been consistent. One off incidences can of course result in the wife killing the husband, especially if there has been clear inciteful provocation but that won’t draw the sympathy of the jury and hence what is required is for the defense to show that there is visible and tangible evidence of wife abuse for example scars, bruises, cuts etc and that the abuse was constant and consistent. Whether there was or there wasn’t is an entirely different matter, but in order to win the jury over that is the type of evidence that the defense needs to adduce or produce.
Abuse needn’t always be physical it can also be verbal and depending on the accused’s personality or characteristics, it may have the same affect i.e. it puts the accused in fear of her life.
Having set the scene, let’s now look at three cases to determine the type of defense that the accused is going to raise once she has committed the crime. We’ll look at R v Duffy (1949), R v Ahluwalia (1993) and R v Thornton (1996).
In R v Duffy (1949) the accused killed her husband with a hammer and a hatchet while he was asleep. Her husband had been abusive towards her and she had been subjected to abuse all throughout her marriage. The accused was arrested and convicted. The accused appealed on the grounds of provocation.
It was decided that provocation was an act or a series of acts that were done that would cause the accused to suddenly lose control or react at the heat of the moment. An accused who had time to think and plan could not raise the defense of provocation and if anything, the fact that the accused had time to reason implies that there was intent, which is a prerequisite to convict for murder. The accused was found to be guilty.
In addition to that provocation generally implies a certain strength of character i.e. the accused is bold enough to react in the heat of the moment and it doesn’t fit the personality of the battered wife.
In R v Ahluwalia (1993), the accused was constantly abused by her husband. The type of abuse included beating her daily and taking her money. In addition to that he was also having an affair with another woman. On the night of the incident, after subjecting his wife to verbal abuse, the victim threatened to beat her up the following morning.
That night, once the victim was asleep the accused doused her husband with petrol and set him alight. The accused was arrested and tried for murder. She raised the defense of provocation but the defense of provocation in line with the decision in R v Duffy (1949) was denied.
The accused was convicted for murder and the accused appealed raising the defense of diminished responsibility. The appeal was allowed on the grounds of diminished responsibility but the judge did stress that under normal circumstances both defenses should be raised in the first instance otherwise the defense might exhaust one defense before attempting another. It was decided that the accused was not guilty of murder and a retrial was ordered.
Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward