Previous: Murder

If a prosecution can prove that a defendant had the necessary actus reus and mens rea for a murder conviction, that defendant may attempt to rely on one of three defences: diminished responsibility, loss of self-control or killing in the pursuance of a suicide pact (not discussed). If one of these partial defences to murder can be successfully relied upon, the defendant’s conviction for murder will be substituted with one of voluntary manslaughter. These partial defences exist primarily as a way to mitigate the mandatory life sentences required to be imposed upon murderers.

Diminished responsibility

This defence will be further explored in a later section. It is sufficient here to note that section 52 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 substituted the partial defence to murder of diminished responsibility into section 2 of the Homicide Act 1957. It is the partial defence ‘equivalent’ of insanity, which is a complete defence to murder. The legal burden is on the defendant to prove that he had an abnormality of mental functioning which arose from a recognised medical condition. This abnormality must have impaired the defendant’s ability to understand the nature of his conduct; affected his judgment or affected his self-control. The rationale behind the defence is usually recognised as good, as it directly relates to issues which can affect a defendant’s mental functions, however it is criticised for not connecting medical terminology with the terminology presented to juries.

Loss of self-control

Loss of self-control is the modern equivalent of the now abolished partial defence of provocation...

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