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R v Hatter [2013] WLR(D) 130

Mark Hatter developed a relationship with Dawn Blackhouse. She was younger than him. He was very generous to her and her children. He had never had children and she had promised to have her sterilisation reversed. The relationship later phased out and she started seeing another man although she never told the defendant  it was over. He went to her house at midnight with a knife and climbed through an upstairs window. He claimed he had taken the knife to lift the carpets and had accidentally stabbed her in the chest and wrist when he spun around whilst holding the knife. He then stabbed himself in the chest but he survived. The defendant claimed accident at trial but this was rejected by the jury The trial judge held that loss of control could not be put to the jury as there was no evidence that he had lost his control, the circumstances were not of an extremely grave nature nor did he have a justifiable sense of being seriously wronged. The defendant appealed against the judge's finding on loss of control.


The appeal was dismissed and the defendant's conviction for murder was upheld. The question of whether the circumstances are extremely grave and whether D had a justifiable sense of being seriously wronged is judged objectively. The break up of a relationship will not normally constitute circumstances of an extremely grave character nor entitle the aggrieved party to have a justifiable sense of being seriously wronged,

“The circumstances must be extremely grave and the defendant's sense of being seriously wronged by them must be justifiable. In our judgment these matters require objective assessment by the judge at the end of the evidence and, if the defence is left, by the jury considering their verdict. If it were otherwise it would mean that a qualifying trigger would be present if the defendant were to give an account to the effect that, "the circumstances were extremely grave to me and caused me to have what I believed was a justifiable sense that I had been seriously wronged". If so, when it is clear that the availability of a defence based on the loss of control has been significantly narrowed, one would have to question the purpose of s.55(3)(4) and (5).”


Back to lecture outline on loss of control in criminal law