Delia has two kinds of defences available to her.
She caneither plea for a loss of control or for diminished responsibility to defend herselfagainst murder. If the defence is accepted by the courts Delia will be chargedwith voluntary manslaughter rather than murder. Voluntary manslaughter is wherethe offender (Delia) intended to kill or cause serious harm, however is notguilty of murder due to either provocation or mental incapacity; this is wherethe defences of loss of control and diminished responsibility come in. If adefence is successful and her sentence to murder is quashed and is sentenced tovoluntary manslaughter instead she will receive a lesser sentence and spendless time in prison. Furthermore, if Delia pleads guilty to voluntarymanslaughter and uses one of the defences early on the judge can reduce thesentence by up to a third, only if this plea is given to the judge early in thetrial. Loss of control comes from S.
54 (1)(a) of the Coronersand Justice Act 2009. It came into force on 4 October 2010 replacing thepartial defence of provocation with loss of control. There are three maincomponents that Delia must comply with for a loss of control plea to besuccessful. The components are as follows; Did D suffer a loss of control? Wasthere a qualifying trigger? And the objective test. The first component, did Dsuffer a loss of control. As Devlin J had stated, the defendant had to havereached the point at which he was ‘no longer master of his mind’, yet thatmeant that ‘in one way, he lacked the full mens rea”1. It does not matter whether or not the loss ofcontrol was sudden.2This is beneficial to Delia’s case as the main question is did she loseself-control.
Here she can refer to her ‘volatile relationship’ and how thenight of the killing she had been hidden in her room for hours to then findCyril asleep when she killed him. However, the prosecution may refer to S.54(4)which states that ‘subsection (1) does not apply if, in doing or being a partyin the killing, D acted in revenge.’ 3 This would mean that Deliawas out for revenge when killing Cyril and would prevent her from receiving thedefence of loss of control. But from the evidence of that night Delia washiding in her room then packed her bags in preparation to leave Cyril and go tostay at her sister’s house, this indicates that she in fact was not planning arevenge attack and had all intentions of leaving to go to her sisters.
If thereis sufficient evidence to raise a defence of loss of control, the burden ofproof is on the prosecution to disprove loss of control.4 This would mean it is onthe prosecution to disprove Delia’s loss of control. The second requirement under s.54(1)(b), was there aqualifying trigger in Delia’s case? There are two qualifying triggers unders.
555,”Fear” trigger s.55(3) ”Anger”trigger s.55(4), or a combination of them both is sufficient s.55(5) tosuccessfully have the defence of loss of control. The main trigger in this casewould be fear, however it could be argued there is an anger trigger in herealso. It is a known factor that Cyril and Delia had a ‘volatile relationship’and on numerous previous occasions, Cyril had struck Delia in the course of anargument, resulting in Delia being hospitalised with broken bones and bruising.
This alone is enough to make Delia be fearful of Cyril as she would fear whathe would do to her next when they had an argument. Evidence for this is,because of the regular abuse Delia is now suffering from depression and Isalways timid and nervous. Her change of character highlights her fear and hownervous she feels in case she upsets Cyril as she knows he has no limits onwhat he will do to her. Adding to this an obvious factor is that she will feelangry with Cyril about everything he has done to her and how he has been makingher feel. Therefore, on the night of the killing when Cyril tells Delia he willdeal with her later, after striking her in the face, the fear would take overher. She would clearly be fearing what he means by he will ”deal” with her,what he was going to do to her.
The objective test is the third requirement of loss ofcontrol. This is a test that determines whether a person of D’s sex and agewith a normal degree of tolerance and restraint and in circumstances of D havereacted in the same or similar way? S.54(3)6 In this case Delia’scircumstance is a major factor leading to why she killed Cyril. He was aregular abuser to Delia causing her to face serious harm. Humphreys (1995) is acase which holds similar facts to this. A had beaten H on a number ofoccasions. One-night H was so scared of A coming home drunk and forcing her tohave sexual intercourse with her and she slits her wrists. When A returns homehe taunts her for not doing a good enough job cutting her wrist, whereupon Hstabbed and killed him.
H relied upon the defence of provocation (old commonlaw) and on the history of her relationship. The court allowed her applicationand where the verdict of murder would be replaced with one of manslaughter.7 This evidence shows thatother women that have been regularly abused change characters and act insimilar ways. Although Delia could arguefor a partial defence of loss of control, the defence of diminished responsibilityis more applicable to this case. Diminished responsibility is a partial defenceto murder only which will reduce Delia’s conviction of murder to one of voluntarymanslaughter. Section 2(1) of the Homicide Act 1957 provides that “Wherea person kills ..
. he shall not be convicted of murder if he was suffering fromsuch abnormality of mind (whether arising from a condition of arrested orretarded development of mind or any inherent causes or induced by disease orinjury) as substantially impaired his mental responsibility for his acts andomissions in doing or being a party to the killing.”8To have a successful pleaDelia would need to prove she has an abnormality of his mental functioning, aswith this defence the legal burden of proof is on the defence. Therefore, it isup to Delia and her legal advisors to prove she was suffering fromabnormalities at the time of the killing. S.2(1)(a) Homicide Act 19579 states that theabnormality of the defendant arose from a recognised medical condition. The factsof this case show that as a result of their volatile relationship Deliadeveloped depression.
This would have impaired her ability to exercise self-control,which is a factor of S.2(1A)(c) Homicide act10 as evidence that the defendanthas a diminished responsibility. Delia would also be eligible to argue that shehas battered woman syndrome. This is a syndrome women develop after beingrepeatedly beaten by their partners. An example of a BWS case is R v Hobson 1998.
This is a case that appeared in front of the court of appeal. The facts of thiscase are, Hobson was first on trial in 1992, and was found guilty of the murderof her husband. She was regularly abused but BWS wasn’t seen as a conditionuntil 1994. Therefore she requested an appeal in 1998 to highlight that she wasa victim of battered women syndrome and that she killed her husband as a resulthis violence.
The court quashed her sentence of murder.11 Also for this defence the substantial impairmenttest needs to be successful. The question for the jury would be To what extent is D answerable for his acts in light ofhis state of mind and ability to exercise self-control? It is obvious thatDelia’s state of mind wasn’t stable at the time of the killing due to her BWSand her depression that formed from her husband’s violent behaviour.Afterlooking at all the facts of Delia’s case it would be wise to plead guilty atthe very beginning of the trial, guilty to voluntary manslaughter under thedefence of diminished responsibility. This is due to the evidence she can useof the BWS which is taken seriously in the courts, and also the fact shedeveloped depression during the period she was with Cyril. Both of theseconditions would have caused her to have an abnormality in her mentalfunctioning meaning she wouldn’t be able to have a stable state of mind.
Lossof control could also be a successful defence. Delia has both the fear and theanger trigger to rely upon in her case. The case of Humphrey’s is evidence tosupport Delia in passing the objective test and that BWS has a strong effect onwomen’s personalities and how they make judgements on their actions.1Law Commission, Partial Defences to Murder (Law Com. CP No 173, 2003) Para,4.28.2S.54(2) C&J Act 2009.3Ibid, (4)4Above 2, (5)5S.55 C&J Act 2009.6S.54(3) C&J Act 2009.7West law, R v Humphreys (Emma) 19958 Westlaw.9S.2(1)(a) Homicide Act 195710 Ibid,S.(1A)(c)11Westlaw, R v Hobson 1998