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R v Tandy [1989] 1 WLR 350

The defendant was an alcoholic. She killed her 11 year old daughter by strangulation after the daughter told her she was being sexually abused by her step father. On the day of the killing the defendant had drunk almost a whole bottle of vodka which was stronger then her normal drink of cinzano. At her trial she was convicted of murder and appealed. LJ Watkins stated the relevant principles applicable to a plea of diminished responsibility due to alcoholism:

The appellant would not establish the second element of the defence unless the evidence showed that the abnormality of mind at the time of the killing was due to the fact that she was a chronic alcoholic. If the alcoholism had reached the level at which her brain had been injured by the repeated insult from intoxicants so that there was gross impairment of her judgment and emotional responses,, then the defence of diminished responsibility was available to her, provided that She satisfied the jury that the third element of the defence existed. Further, if the appellant were able to establish that alcoholism had reached the level where although the brain had not been damaged to the extent just stated, the appellant's drinking had become involuntary, that is to say she was no longer able to resist the impulse to drink, then the defence of diminished responsibility would be available to her, subject to her establishing the first and third elements, because if her drinking was involuntary, then her abnormality of mind at the time of the act of strangulation was induced by her condition of alcoholism.


Conviction for murder upheld. The appellant had demonstrated in her evidence that she had exercised control over her drinking. She had chosen to drink a different drink on the day in question and was unable to recall if she had drunk the day before. She was also able to stop drinking at 6.30 pm on the day of the killing despite the fact that the bottle was not yet empty.
Back to lecture outline on Diminished Responsibility