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R v Smith (Morgan) [2000] 3 WLR 654 House of Lords

The appellant, an alcoholic suffering from a depressive illness, stabbed his drinking partner after a row over some stolen tools. The trial judge ruled that severe depressive illness was not a matter for the jury to take into account in deciding whether an ordinary man sharing the respondent's characteristics would have lost his self control. In his summing up he told the jury that a depressive state was a characteristic to be taken into account when dealing with the gravity of the provocation but that the fact that the depressive illness might have disinhibited the respondent from behaving violently was irrelevant. The jury returned a verdict of murder and the appellant appealed contending the jury should have been allowed to take into account his depressive illness in assessing his reaction to the provocation. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal holding that there had been a mis-direction. The Crown appealed to the House of Lords.

Held:

The House of Lords preferred the dissenting opinion in Luc Thuet Thuan holding that mental characteristics can be taken into account in assessing both the gravity of the provocation and the reaction of the defendant in relation to a reasonable man. The appeal was therefore dismissed.

NB this decision is no longer binding see A-G for Jersey v Holley and R v James & Karimi
 
Back to lecture outline on the defence of provocation