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R v Thornton [1996] 1 WLR 1174

The appellant killed her alcoholic, abusive and violent husband. On the day in question the deceased returned home drunk and an argument erupted. At one point he asked her to leave and started throwing her clothes out. She then left the house with her husband's son. She returned later to find her husband asleep on the sofa. She went and changed into her night clothes and came down and asked her husband to come to bed. He called her a whore and told her to get out or he would kill her. She went to the kitchen got a knife and sharpened it then returned to the living room. Woke her husband and again asked him to come to bed. He made further abusive comments. She plunged the knife into his stomach which killed him. At her trial she raised the defence of diminished responsibility based on a personality disorder. She did not raise the defence of provocation but the judge directed the jury on provocation. She was convicted of murder. In her first appeal, the appellant challenged the Duffy direction given to the jury ie the requirement that the loss of control be sudden and temporary. This appeal was unsuccessful. She then appealed relying on fresh medical evidence that at the time of the killing she was suffering from battered woman syndrome in addition to her personality disorder and whilst the trial judge had directed the jury to take into account her characteristics in assessing whether she had lost her self control, he had not specifically mentioned these particular characteristics nor the fact that they could be attributed to the reasonable man when the jury is assessing the standard of control expected of the appellant.

Held:

The appeal was allowed and the murder conviction was quashed. In accordance with Morhall, Ahluwalia and Humphreys, the jury should have been directed that they could take into account her mental characteristics in assessing the standard of control expected of the defendant.

NB. This position of the law was changed in A-G for Jersey v Holley
 
Back to lecture outline on the defence of provocation or loss of control