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Principles and Values in Criminal Law and Criminal JusticeEssays in Honour of Andrew Ashworth$
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Lucia Zedner and Julian V. Roberts

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199696796

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199696796.001.0001

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Years of Provocation, Followed by a Loss of Control

Years of Provocation, Followed by a Loss of Control

Chapter:
(p.113) 8 Years of Provocation, Followed by a Loss of Control
Source:
Principles and Values in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice
Author(s):

Barry Mitchell

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199696796.003.0008

On 4 October 2010 the old common law plea of provocation which, if successful, reduced murder to voluntary manslaughter, was abolished and replaced by the partial defence of loss of control. This was the culmination of a crescendo of criticism and frustration over three or four decades of case law, especially about, firstly, the requirement of a loss of self-control, and the apparent bias in favour of male reactions to provocation, and the law's inadequate accommodation of female reactions; and, secondly, the nature of the normative element in the law and the extent to which personal characteristics of the defendant could be taken into account. This chapter reviews some of the key elements and concerns about the old common law before turning to explore its statutory replacement. In so doing, it argues that the decision to base the new law on a loss of control requirement is fundamentally misguided. Whilst the use of ambiguous words and phrases may allow the courts a necessary measure of discretion, it will simultaneously risk injustice to some deserving defendants. The chapter also suggests that the objective requirement in the new plea has not been adequately thought through.

Keywords:   old common law, loss of control, objective requirement, provocation, murder, manslaughter, criminal law

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