Premeditated killing could be judged manslaughter in cases of domestic violence

    Women who kill their partners after years of physical or
    emotional abuse could have their sentence reduced under new plans
    to overhaul the murder law, writes Shirley
    Kumar
    .

    The Law Commission proposes to reduce automatic murder sentences to
    manslaughter for women who do not kill their partners in the heat
    of the moment.

    “The law of provocation under the Homicide Act 1957 is
    unsatisfactory and beyond cure by judicial reform,” said the
    commission in its report to ministers.

    It recommends: “Unlawful homicide that would otherwise be
    murder should instead be manslaughter if the defendant acted in
    response to gross provocation, fear of serious violence towards the
    defendant or a combination of both.”

    However, the commission said pleas for partial defence should not
    be used as an excuse to use violence or the defendant acted in
    pre-meditated desire for revenge.

    The move has been welcomed by domestic violence campaigners,
    Women’s Aid and Refuge, who say it is a step in the right
    direction.

    Refuge believes the current provocation law, requiring a defendant
    to have acted because of a sudden and spontaneous loss of control,
    favours men’s anger over women’s fear.

     “A woman because of her lesser physical strength is less
    able to kill a man in sudden and spontaneous anger. Instead if she
    is to defend herself against him she might have to take advantage
    of the fact that he’s sleeping or drunk,” confirmed
    Refuge policy advisor Ruth Aitken.

    However, the charity still wants to see a broader review of self
    defence so that it does include a pre-emptive use of force in
    circumstances where people have been abused.

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