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   Case summaries      R v Dowds [2012]
R v Dowds  [2012] EWCA Crim 281 Court of Appeal


The appellant, a 49 year old college lecturer, killed his partner in a frenzied knife attack whilst he was heavily intoxicated. Both he and his partner were habitual binge drinkers and there had been numerous violent exchanges between the couple, most of which had been initiated by her and most occurred whilst they were intoxicated. He reported her death to the police two days after the killing and claimed that he had no recollection of the events but accepted that he had killed her. He did not assert that he was alcohol dependant. He could exercise choice over when he drank and would not drink during the week. However, once he had started drinking he was unable to stop. The trial judge ruled that his voluntary and temporary drunkenness was not capable of founding the defence of diminished responsibility. The appellant appealed contending that the World Health Organisation lists acute intoxication in its International Classification of Disease and it was therefore a medically recognised condition and thus satisfied the requirement in s.2(1)(a) Homicide Act 1957 as amended by s.52 Coroners and Justice Act 2009.


Appeal dismissed. Voluntary acute intoxication, whether from alcohol or other substance, is not capable of founding diminished responsibility.


Hughes LJ:

“The re-formulation of the statutory conditions for diminished responsibility was not intended to reverse the well established rule that voluntary acute intoxication is not capable of being relied upon to found diminished responsibility. That remains the law. The presence of a 'recognised medical condition' is a necessary, but not always a sufficient, condition to raise the issue of diminished responsibility.”

Back to lecture outline on diminished responsibility in criminal law