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R v Ahluwalia [1992] 4 All ER 889;

(1993) 96 Cr App R 133; [1993] Crim LR 63; (1992) 142 NLJ 1159

MURDER, MANSLAUGHTER, DIMINISHED RESPONSIBILITY, PROVOCATION, ABUSE

Facts

The appellant, Ahluwalia, suffered abuse and violence from her husband for years. After one violent evening, she went to bed thinking about her husband’s behaviour and could not sleep. She finally went downstairs, poured petrol into a bucket, lit a candle, went to her husband’s bedroom and set it on fire. Her husband died from his injuries. Ahluwalia pleaded manslaughter on grounds that she did not intend to kill him, only to inflict pain. She also pleaded the defence of provocation on grounds of her treatment during the marriage. Ahluwalia was convicted of murder and appealed the decision.

Issue

(1) Is the definition of provocation in R v Duffy [1949] 1 All ER 932 as “sudden and temporary loss of control”, which presumes that the harmful act follows straight after the provocation, still good law?

(2) Is the defence of diminished responsibility which was not considered at trial available on appeal?

Held

(1) The definition in R v Duffy [1949] 1 All ER 932 as “sudden and temporary loss of control” is still good law as it is a readily understandable phrase. However, in cases of abused wives, the harmful act is often a result of a “slowburn” reaction, rather than immediate loss of self-control. The longer the delayed reaction of provocation and the stronger the evidence of deliberation, the less likely it becomes for the defence to succeed.

(2) At the time of the trial there was a medical report showing that at the time of the killing, the defendant was suffering from endogenous depression. It was overlooked and the appellant was not consulted as to the possibility of investigating it further. The appeal was therefore allowed and a retrial ordered.


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