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R v Johnson [1989] EWCA Crim 289 Court of Appeal

The appellant was at a night club. A woman called him a 'white ni**er'. The appellant was white but had taken to adopting a West Indian accent. He took exception to the comments and made violent threats to her. A male friend of hers intervened and poured a glass of beer over the appellant. A fight developed between the two men and the appellant stabbed the man resulting in his death. The appellant argued he was acting in self-defence as he believed he was about to be glassed. He also denied losing any self-control. The judge directed the jury on self-defence but did not direct the jury on provocation because he considered the provocation was self-induced. The jury rejected self-defence and convicted him of murder. He appealed contending the judge had a duty to direct the jury on provocation.


Conviction for murder quashed and substituted for manslaughter. The judge should have directed the jury on provocation.

LJ Watkins:
"In view of the express wording of section 3, as interpreted in Camplin, which was decided after Edwards, we find it impossible to accept that the mere fact that a defendant caused a reaction in others, which in turn led him to lose his self-control, should result in the issue of provocation being kept outside a jury's consideration. Section 3 clearly provides that the question is whether things done or said or both provoked the defendant to lose his self-control. If there is any evidence that it may have done, the issue must be left to the jury. The jury would then have to consider all the circumstances of the incident, including all the relevant behaviour of the defendant, in deciding (a) whether he was in fact provoked and (b) whether the provocation was enough to make a reasonable man do what the defendant did."
Back to lecture outline on the defence of provocation or loss of control