Wrong Turnings on Defences to Murder

Jeremy Horder

in Homicide and the Politics of Law Reform

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199561919
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191743306 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Monographs on Criminal Law and Justice

Wrong Turnings on Defences to Murder

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This chapter tells the story of the post-war reforms to defences to murder, through a re-consideration of the reforms proposed by Royal Commission on Capital Punishment (1953). The favoured recommendations of the Royal Commission would have given a wide-ranging discretionary role in sentence mitigation to the judge and jury in individual murder cases. These recommendations were rejected by a government fearful of the public's reaction to the shrinking scope for the death penalty that such change would have involved. Instead, the government brought in new but narrowly focused partial defences to murder, and only slightly (albeit significantly) broadened the old defence of provocation. The result was a more heavily doctrinal approach to the circumstances in which a partial defence to murder applied than was favoured by the Royal Commission. Predictably, this approach mired the law in a bog of ever-thickening legal complexity from which there is now little hope of escape.

Keywords: Royal Commission; partial defences; murder; death penalty; sentencing discretion; provocation

Chapter.  32690 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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