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Voluntary manslaughter is when a defendant has muredered a victim, but
can use one of the following defences to reduce his/her sentence to
manslaughter (all of which are sections of the Homocide act 1957):
* Diminished responsibility (S2)
* Provocation (S3)
* Suicide Pact (S4)
Involuntary manslaughter is when a defendant does not intend to cause
GBH or kill the victim, but does so. EG - a man throws a brick at a
window, intending to break it. The brick then bounces off the window
and hits another man in the head, killing him instantly.
2. What does it mean when the defendant can use voluntary
manslaughter as a ‘partial defence’?
This means the defendant can rely on one of the above three defences
to reduce his/her murder charge to manslaughter. The above defences
are NOT EXCUSES, and a defendant cannot use them to be acquitted, only
to have their sentence reduced.
3. Whom must prove the defence of diminished responsibility and
what is the standard of proof?
The defendant must prove he/she had an ‘abnormality of the mind’. The
standard of proof is on the ‘balance of probabilities’, not on the
reasonable man test.
4. S2(1) of the Homocide Act 1957 includes the phrase ‘any inherent
cause’. What does this mean?
The term ‘any inherent cause’ means literally ‘any cause from within’.
5. What is a “transient state of intoxication” and is it seen as a
disease of the mind?
‘A Transient state of intoxication’ refers to the temporary effects of
an intoxicating substance such as drugs or alcohol. It can only be
seen as a disease of the mind if alcoholism or constant drug use has
actually caused damage to the brain, the defence must prove this.
6. If the defendant has a disease of the mind, but is also
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The judge will direct the jury to consider whether or not they feel
that the defendant would have killed had he/she not of been
intoxicated. If their answer is yes, then diminished responsibility
can be used as a defence. If not, then no defence can be used.
7. Why may a defendant wish a charge of murder to be replaced,
using the defence of voluntary manslaughter, even though life
imprisonment is still a sentencing option?
The only sentence available for a murder trial is life imprisonment,
so, if found guilty, the only possible sentence a defendant will
receive is life. Whereas in a manslaughter trial, there are a range of
sentences available, making it less likely that the defendant will
receive life imprisonment.
8. If you were given the task of rewording S2 of the Homocide Act
1957, how would you define ‘disease of the mind’.
I would define it as – “such a mental abnormality that reduces the
persons ability to make conscious and reasonable decisions”
The term ‘mental abnormality’ would include:
* Mental Illness
* Arrested or Incomplete development of the mind
* Psychopathic disorders
* Any disorder or disability of the mind (except intoxication).