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What are the criticisms of the current law on Voluntary manslaughter?

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Introduction

What are the criticisms of the current law on Voluntary manslaughter? Voluntary Manslaughter, set out in the Homicide Act 1957, was established as a substitution for murder in certain circumstances. If there is evidence of Diminished responsibility then murder may be substituted for manslaughter. Diminished responsibility can be a form of insanity an 'abnormailty of mind' which is somewhat advantageous if you can prove this, as would be evidence of Provocation, Infanticide or the participation of a Suicide Pact. If the defendant is convicted of Murder, there is a mandatory life sentence and will definitely be imprisoned for a term usually no less than 12 years. However, if convicted of Voluntary Manslaughter, which still embeds the Actus Reus and Mens Rea of Murder, 'malice aforethought', and the defendant may be sentenced at the discretion of the Judge. In some cases this has amounted to a full life sentence anyway, but there have also been a few where the defendant has been given a suspended sentence. Aside from this fact, is the current law on voluntary manslaughter satisfactory or is it too readily available as a defence against Murder, making the law too forgiving of serious crime? ...read more.

Middle

In Johnson 1989 the defendant made uncivil comments to the victim who then in return threatened the defendant with a glass bottle and Johnson then stabbed the victim with a flick-knife. The Court of Appeal allowed Voluntary Manslaughter, however at the first hearing of this trial the jury had disagreed because the Provocation was brought about by the defendant. Some people feel that self-induced provocation is very unfair, the defendants actions however will be looked upon by the judge as an aggravating factor and it is unlikely that they will get a greatly reduced sentence. Again more problems arose with one of the elements of Provocation to Voluntary Manslaughter and that was that 'a sudden loss of control' needs to be exercised. The problem with cases like Alhuwalia 1992 and Humphreys 1995, is that there was no 'sudden and temporary loss of control'. What is now considered and accepted by the current law is the 'slow burn' principle of Battered Woman's Syndrome. But there is no way to establish when exactly the line burns out or to what extent women's self control differs from men's. ...read more.

Conclusion

The criticisms that I personally raise on the current law of Voluntary manslaughter are that it doesn't help those that it always should. For example the policy on Diminished Responsibility is that this has to be ''abnormality of mind' not caused by drugs or alcohol. However what about those on prescription drugs such as O'Connell 1997. Should there not be a provision for these people or those who have been deceived and taken drugs or alcohol unknowingly? Also, a topic that should be considered is that when it comes to Voluntary Manslaughter it can be easy to be overcome by legal technicalities and to forget that it is there to prevent injustice. In Martin 2001 there have been comments that Martin Misused the law as he claimed that in protecting his property from burglars he shot them because of his 'Paranoid personality Disorder' this seems to have gone too far and that the courts may begin to disagree once more. Roe, Diana. Criminal Law, 2000, Hodder & Stoughton Roe, Diana, Criminal Law 2nd edition, 2002, Hodder and Stoughton Nutcases Criminal Law 2nd edition, 1999, Sweet and Maxwell www.ilearnatlewes.co.uk/LawWithFrames/Module4/module4_index.htm www.sprocket1.demon.co.uk/wendyhomepage/conclusion.html - By Wendy Hesketh www.lawcom.gov.uk www.stbrn.ac.uk ...read more.

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