Loss of control, formerly provocation

If adequate loss of control is established, a murder charge may be reduced to manslaughter.

Section 54 of The Coroners and Justice Act 2009  replaces the the former defence of provocation, found in The Homicide Act 1957, with the defence of loss of control. The provisions in the 2009 Act apply to defendants charged with murder where the death of the victim was the result of acts or omissions which took place on or after 4 October 2010. Provocation will remain as a defence to killings which took place before 4 October 2010.

If adequate loss of control is established, a murder charge may be reduced to manslaughter. The following points are essential for the defence to be successful:

The defendant must have lost self-control,there must be a “qualifying trigger” and a person of the same sex and age would have reacted in the same way as the defendant in the same  circumstances.

The loss of control no longer has to be shown to be sudden.

Fear of violence can be a 'trigger' and this can include fear of violence from burglars or fear of women from the violence of their partners. The 'trigger' of things being said or done would have to be of an ‘extremely grave character’ and would have to have given cause for concern of a serious wrong. Mere words and gestures would not be sufficient. Prior to the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 the Court of Appeal quashed the defendant's conviction in Doughty(1986).  The defendant used the defence of provocation when he killed his baby son who would not stop crying. It is unlikely that he would be able to use the defence of loss of control under the present law as it would be difficult to show that he had a 'justifiable sense of being seriously wronged'

Sexual unfaithfulness can not by itself be a trigger.

The 2009 Act requires that, whichever ‘qualifying trigger’ is relied on: ‘a person of D’s sex and age, with a normal degree of tolerance and self-restraint and in the circumstances of D, might have reacted in the same or similar way’.

In other words, apart from sex and age, the jury cannot consider any of the defendant's circumstances which might have made him have a lower level of self-control.

In deciding the level of self control only age and sex can be considered, but other circumstances affecting the defendant can be taken into consideration when deciding if a ‘normal’ person would have had the same reaction as the defendant in the same circumstances. If a jury decides that a 'normal' person might have lost control but decide that he would have not reacted in the same way the defence will fail.

The landmark case is Clinton, R. v (2012)

Loss of Control - Crown Prosecution Service

Judges rule on wife murder 'loss of control' appeals - BBC News

Changes to the law of homicide | News | Law Society Gazette

Battered women who kill to be main beneficiaries as homicide law changes

Julie Bindel on women who kill violent partners






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