Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Murder, Terrorism - two important cases

Lord Justice Hughes
Law of diminished responsibility:

The law of murder has been recently reformed by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 Part 2 Chapter 1.  The new provisions gave rise to the Court of Appeal judgment in R v Clinton, Parker and Evans [2012] EWCA Crim 2 relating to the new defence of "loss of control" which has replaced the earlier defence of "provocation."  This case is discussed further here.  A further partial defence is that of diminished responsibility which first entered English law via the Homicide Act 1957.  This defence has been amended by the Coroners and Justice Act s.52.  If a partial defence is successfully pleaded then the result is that the defendant will be convicted of manslaughter and not murder.

In R v Dowds [2012] EWCA Crim 281, the Court of Appeal (Hughes LJ, Simon and Lang JJ) was faced with the question whether acute voluntary
intoxication is capable of giving rise to the partial defence of diminished responsibility on an indictment for murder. It could not have done so prior to the amendments to the Homicide Act 1957 s.2 which were made by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 s 52. The appellant contended that those amendments mean that voluntary and temporary drunkenness may now give rise to diminished responsibility and thus reduce murder to manslaughter. That is because, it is said, acute intoxication is a "recognised medical condition" within section 2(1)(a) of the Homicide Act as amended.  The Court of Appeal rejected this argument and ruled that voluntary acute intoxication, whether from alcohol or other substance, is not capable of founding diminished responsibility.  The judgment merits a full reading.  It contains consideration of the former law [paras. 91-4], drunkenness in English law [15-23], the amendments to the Homicide Act 1957 s.2 [24-28], the meaning of "recognised medical conditions" [29-32].

Terrorism Law:

Lord Justice Thomas
In R v Gul [2012] EWCA Crim 280  (Thomas LJ - President of the Queen's Bench Division, Silber and Kenneth Parker JJ) the appellant had uploaded videos on to the internet which the Crown argued encouraged the commission of terrorism as defined in the Terrorism Act 2000 s.1Included in the videos were scenes showing attacks on soldiers of the Coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan by insurgents. After retirement the jury asked whether such attacks were terrorism within the definition in s.1. The judge told them they were. The Court of Appeal ruled that this answer was correct -  the attacks were terrorism.  

The definition in section 1 was clear.  Those who attacked the military forces of a government or the Coalition forces in Afghanistan or Iraq with the requisite intention set out in the Act are terrorists. There was nothing in international law which either compelled or persuaded the court to read down the clear terms of the 2000 Act to exempt such persons from the definition in the Act.  

A sentence of 5 years imprisonment was upheld despite the fact that the appellant was a man of good character (apart from one caution).  The sentence was not manifestly excessive given that the videos were in part glorifying and encouraging attacks on the forces of Her Majesty then serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The seriousness of such conduct had to be marked by significant sentences of imprisonment despite the youth of the appellant and the serious consequences the conviction will have for the rest of his life.”

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