Posted by: secretperson | July 29, 2008

I Can’t Believe This Law

There was a report a few days ago about removing the defence of provocation in murder cases. I didn’t comment at the time as I wanted to know more, but the BBC has today brought us another article which discusses it, along with the proposed changes, and includes this quote:

One of the changes due is to the so-called “provocation defence”.

This allows men who kill their wife or partner in a fit of jealousy to plead provocation but does not currently apply to women who murder someone who has been abusing them for many years.

Now I refuse to believe it would be legal to have a law that treats men and women differently. It may well be the case that impulsive killings were considered manslaughter and pre-meditated killings considered murder. That is usual under law. It may also be that men were more likely to kill on impulse and women to suffer long time abuse and escape by planning their husband’s murder. But I am sure the law didn’t specify men and women, and if it did it is the most disgraceful law today!

It was also claimed that ‘nagging’ was allowed, along with things like infidelity as a ‘provocation’ which is pretty shocking if true.

Anyway the changes introduce a partial defence of long-term abuse, which I think has some grounds, along the lines of diminished responsibility. However anything which allows circumstance to affect criminal responsibility must be very carefully worded. Women (and men) in abusive relationships need to be offered help leaving, and certainly mustn’t be told killing is the right way to end the situation.

Rape victims and parents of children abused by paedophiles will also be affected by the new laws. Again careful wording must be adopted if we are to avoid vigilantism.

This is currently a consultation paper, so still seeks public input. But on the whole the ideas contained seem sensible and reasonable, but I want legal experts making sure politicians good intentions don’t, as so often, have unforeseen consequences.

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