In this essay I will be discussing and also identifying the extent to which the coroners and justice act 2009 reformed the law of voluntary manslaughter and the extent to which it succeeded in its aims. Voluntary manslaughter is less serious than murder, voluntary manslaughter is when the defendant has killed the victim with malice aforethought, malice aforethought defined by Coke  is when one compassth to kill, wound or beat another and doth it fedato animo. The defendant has committed murder but they have a partial defence, this reduces the sentence from murder to voluntary manslaughter this means that the defendant will not be sentenced to life imprisonment which is the mandatory sentence for murder. There are three defences that can be used by the defendant in court. The defence of Diminished responsibility and suicide pact is laid out In the Homicide Act 1954 and the defence loss of control is laid out in the Coroner and justice Act 2009, dimished responsibility and suicide pact are both modified by the Coroners and justice Act 2009. These defences are special defences they can only be applied to the law of murder.
“Reforms on Voluntary Manslaughter Law as a Result of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009”Get custom essay
Diminished responsibility is one of the defences that can be used in the case of a murder, it is set out in section 2 of the Homicide Act 1957 and amended by section 52 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.In order for the defence of diminished responsibility to be used by the defendant who has killed or is a party of killing of another , the defendant has to be suffering from an abnormality of mental functioning which-(A) arose from a recognised medical condition, substantially impaired the defendants ability to understand the nature of their conduct, to form a rational judgment and to exercise self-control and provides an explanation for the defendants acts and omission in doing or being a party to the killing. The case of R v Bryne  is related to the abnormality of the mind, rather than the abnormality of metal functioning. An abnormality of the state of mind is that a reasonable man would consider abnormal.
Prior to the amendment of the Homicide Act 1957 by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, the Homicide Act referred to the abnormality of the mind, it was amended to clarify the law and not to make any changes to the application of the defence, which is why case law that were under the Homicide Act are still influential when deciding what may count as an abnormality of the mental functioning. Loss of control as a partial defence has the ability to reduce the liability of murder to manslaughter, loss of control as a defence was first introduced by section 54 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, prior to this amendment, it was known as the defence of provocation under section 3 Homicide Act 1957. The requirements to use provocation as a partial defence were: there must be evidence of provocation, the defendant must have been provoked to lose their self control and the provocation must be such as to make a reasonable man do as the defendant did. Loss of control as a defence was introduced because of the concern in regards to the defence of provocation.
The requirement for the partial defence of loss of control is laid out in s.54( Coroners and Justice Act 2009, the requirements are; The defendants acts or omissions must result from defendants loss of control. The loss of control has a qualifying trigger; and A person of the defendant’s sex and age with a normal degree of tolerance and self restraint in the circumstances of defendant, might have acted in the same way. The defence of loss of control is further defined in section 55,there must be: a loss of self control that is not necessarily sudden, and the defendant loss of control must have been attributed to one or both of two specified triggers which are- 1) the defendant fears of serious violence from victim against defendant or another identified person or things done or said which constitute circumstances of an extremely grave character and cause defendant to have a justifiable sense of being seriously wronged. The Coroners and justice act 2009 has reformed the law of voluntary manslaughter by reforming certain parts of the Homicide Act 1957.
The aims of the creation of the CJA 2009 was to narrow the use defence of loss of control and to also get rid of the negative connotations that came the phrase ‘ Provocation’, it was also decided that the defence of provocation as one that excused killing but one that could justify the killing. The Coroners and justice act 2009 has replaced the partial defence of provocation with loss of control, the provocation defence was replaced because it was subject to plenty of consideration by the appeal courts, the appeal courts were not always consistent in the interpretation and application of the defence of provocation. The defence of provocation was also considered to be gender bias because it favoured male defendants that killed as a result of losing their temper, but did not provide a tailored response to female defendants that killed out of fear of serious violence i.e. domestic violence. Women were at a disadvantage if they did not act in a state that of which could be legally described as a sudden or temporary loss of control, also the battered woman syndrome was only taken into account if it was relevant to the provocation. This lead to the reform of the CJA 2009, It was designed to be a narrower defence than the defence of provocation. Sexual infidelity is no longer allowed as a qualifying trigger. If the defendant is relying on things said or done then they must be extremely grave in nature and have caused a justifiable sense of being seriously wronged, which was not required under provocation. But also it considered to be wider because the fear of sudden violence being considered in cases which is set out in the Coroner and Justice Act 2009, whereas in the Homicide Act 1954 it was not considered and there also doesn’t have to be a sudden loss of control.
In the case of R v Ahluwalia the defendant set fire to her husband whilst he was asleep, he died a few days later form his injuries, the couple had an arranged marriage, and her husband had been having an affair and was violent and abusive throughout their marriage, on the night the defendant killed the victim, the victim had threatened her with more violence, the defendant admitted to killing the victim but used the defence of provocation, but the defendant was then convicted for murder, she appealed on the grounds that the judge’s direction to the jury relating to provocation was wrong and she also raised the defence of diminished responsibility. It was held that the judge’s direction on provocation was correct and appeal on the grounds of provocation was therefore unsuccessful, but her appeal was allowed on the grounds of diminished responsibility. This case highlights how women were at a disadvantage with the Homicide Act 2009 women who were charged with murder had to rely on the defence of diminished responsibility which required evidence from an expert .i.e. A doctor and this stigmatized these women as being mentally abnormal.
The loss of control as a defence also improves the control the judges have over whether there is sufficient evidence or not to raise the defence, this means that there will be a more consistent use of the defence where it is needed. For example in the case of R v Doughty[ 1986], the defendant killed his son whom was only 17 days old, the baby had been constantly crying and the defendant had tried his best to stop the baby crying, but failed to do so, so the defendant covered the baby mouth to drown out the sound of the crying but pressed down harder than he meant to also at the time he was kneeling on the baby’s head, the defendant had been under stress since the birth of his son, he had to look after his wife whom was told to take things easy because she had a caesarean birth, look after the baby and also daily chores that had to be done around the house. The defendant argued that he was provoked by the baby’s constant crying. It was held that the baby’s crying could amount to a provocative act within s.3 of the Homicide Act 1957, the defendant conviction for murder was changed to manslaughter and his life sentence was reduced to 5 years. In conclusion the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 has succeeded in it aims to reform the law of voluntary manslaughter, its aims were to was to narrow the use defence of loss of control and to also get rid of the negative connotations that came the phrase ‘Provocation’, and to also to use the defence to justify killings not to excuse it, this can be seen in the case of Doughty, where he used the defence of provocation to excuse his killing not to justify it. The CJA 2009 is also fairer to women, where women with battered women syndrome can justify their killings using the defence of loss of control, in the case of Ahluwalia where she couldn’t use the defence of provocation but instead had to use the defence of diminished responsibility.
Reforms on Voluntary Manslaughter Law as a result of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. (2017, Jun 26).
Retrieved February 6, 2023 , from
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