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R v Dietschmann [2003] 1 AC 1209

The appellant had been having a relationship with his aunt who was much older than him and was a drug addict. The appellant was sentenced to imprisonment for an offence he had committed and the relationship continued during his stay in prison. She wrote to him every day and visited him. Unfortunately his aunt died whilst he was in prison. A month before she died, the aunt gave him a watch. He reacted badly to the death of his aunt and had attempted suicide. He was released from prison a month after her death and began drinking heavily. He was also prescribed prozac by his doctor. Two weeks after his release, he was drinking with two men at the home where he was staying. They were dancing and the watch given to him by his aunt fell off his arm. The appellant accused Nicholas Davies of breaking it. He then punched and kicked him to death in a violent attack. He was convicted of murder and appealed.


Held:

His conviction for murder was substituted for a manslaughter conviction.

Lord Hutton set the appropriate direction to be given to juries where there exists an abnormality of the mind in addition to intoxication:

"Assuming that the defence have established that the defendant was suffering from mental abnormality as described in section 2, the important question is: did that abnormality substantially impair his mental responsibility for his acts in doing the killing? You know that before he carried out the killing the defendant had had a lot to drink. Drink cannot be taken into account as something which contributed to his mental abnormality and to any impairment of mental responsibility arising from that abnormality. But you may take the view that both the defendant's mental abnormality and drink played a part in impairing his mental responsibility for the killing and that he might not have killed if he had not taken drink. If you take that view, then the question for you to decide is this: has the defendant satisfied you that, despite the drink, his mental abnormality substantially impaired his mental responsibility for his fatal acts, or has he failed to satisfy you of that? If he has satisfied you of that, you will find him not guilty of murder but you may find him guilty of manslaughter. If he has not satisfied you of that, the defence of diminished responsibility is not available to him."

Back to lecture outline on Diminished Responsibility