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R v Weller [2003] Crim LR 724

The appellant strangled his ex-girlfriend. The couple had a relationship for 12 months and had lived together for five of those months. She was 18 he was 34. She ended the relationship due to his excessive jealousy and possessiveness. She went to their flat to collect her belongings. An argument developed resulting in him strangling her. At his trial he raised the defence of provocation. The trial judge directed the jury:

"The fact that someone may have lost their self-control as a result of some provocative act cannot by itself be a defence to murder, because if it were it would mean anybody who found it difficult to control their emotions or their temper could kill and then say, "Well, I lost my self-control. I'm not guilty of murder." The law isn't that stupid, members of the jury. The law expects people to control their emotions. It expects people to exercise reasonable restraint. Even if you are an unusually excitable sort of person the law expects you to control yourself. So that is why you have the second aspect and that is why the section keeps referring to the role of the jury and what a reasonable person would do. So the law says, right, you the jury, you decide, representing the community as you do, you decide whether the circumstances were such or may have been such as to make the loss of self-control excusable so that you reduce the offence from murder to manslaughter. You apply the appropriate standards of behaviour and again you consider all the circumstances. You of course make allowances for human nature and the power of emotions but you have to consider and decide what society expects of a man like this defendant in his position. If you are sure his behaviour was not a reasonable reaction, if you are sure his behaviour was inexcusable, then the verdict would be one of guilty of murder. If it was or may have been excusable your verdict would be 'not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter by reason of provocation."

The jury convicted him of murder. The appellant appealed contending that the judge should have mentioned his characteristics of excessive jealousy and possessiveness in her direction.

Held:

There was no mis-direction. The judge had advised the jury to take into account "all the circumstances" and decide the question by applying the standard of "what society expects of a man like this defendant in his position." She had therefore allowed them to consider the characteristics of the defendant. There was no requirement to refer to the specific characteristics of the defendant.

Decided applying the principle in R v Smith (Morgan) allowing mental characteristics to be taken into account. This demonstrates the difficulty with such an approach. The trial judge represented to counsel that she was not prepared to refer to possessiveness and jealousy. Furthermore Lord Hoffman in R v Smith (Morgan) had stated
'Male possessiveness and jealousy should not today be an acceptable reason for loss of self-control leading to homicide,…. However, he felt compelled by s.3 to allow such matters to be decided by the jury.' See also R v Mohammed 2005
 
Back to lecture outline on the defence of provocation