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R v Dowds [2012] 3 All ER 154;

[2012] WLR(D) 43; [2012] Crim LR 612; [2012] MHLR 153; [2012] 1 Cr App R 34; [2012] 1 WLR 2576; [2012] EWCA Crim 281

MURDER, DIMINISHED RESPONSIBILITY, VOLUNTARY INTOXICATION, PARTIAL DEFENCE

Facts

The defendant, Dowds (D), killed his partner with a knife by inflicting 60 wounds on her. He sought to rely on the partial defence of diminished responsibility for ‘recognised medical conditions’ under s. 2(1) Homicide Act 1957 as substituted by s. 52(1) Coroners and Justice Act 2009. Dowds claimed that he was a binge drinker and was so drunk at the time of the killing that he could not remember any of it. According to him, acute intoxication amounted to ‘recognised medical condition’ under s. 2(1)(a) Homicide Act 1957 as substituted by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. Therefore, it was capable of causing abnormality of mental functioning and thus, to found a partial defence. The judge ruled that voluntary drunkenness was not capable of founding a partial defence and did not raise the issue before the jury. Dowds was consequently convicted of a murder and appealed the decision before the Court of Appeal.

Issue

Is voluntary acute intoxication capable of founding a partial defence of diminished responsibility under s. 2(1) Homicide Act 1957?

Held

(1) Voluntary acute intoxication cannot by itself found a partial defence of diminished responsibility to manslaughter.

(2) S. 2(1) Homicide Act 1957 was not amended by s. 52(1) Coroners and Justice Act 2009 with the intention of going against this established practice of law.

(3) If Parliament had had such an intention, it would have made it explicit.

(4) Such an intention cannot be inferred from introducing the term ‘recognised medical condition’ into the law of diminished responsibility. The term was introduced as a response to new developments in medicine and psychiatry, not as an alteration of the law on voluntary intoxication.


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