30 September 2010
Joshua Rozenberg has written an article in today’s Guardian pointing out that, as of Monday, a major reform of the law of murder will take effect. The measures, which were introduced by the last Government, in effect replace the old partial defence to murder of provocation with a new partial defence of “loss of control”.
As Rozenberg points out, a partial defence reduces an offence from murder to manslaughter, which means that a judge will not have to impose a mandatory life sentence on conviction. The reforms to the law on provocation stem from long-standing criticism that the defence’s archaic origins in the common law have led to it being unduly lenient in instances of hot-headed violence (e.g. a husband killing his wife on discovery of infidelity), while providing insufficient protection for “slow burn” cases (and in particular those where victims of prolonged domestic violence finally kill the perpetrators). In recent years, attempts by the courts to extend the partial defence to “slow burn” cases have led to increasingly strained interpretations of the law in this area, which have furthered calls for reform.