New defence to murder charge comes into force

Men and women facing domestic violence could argue they were forced to kill their tormentor under a new murder law which comes into force today.







Killers can escape a murder conviction by proving they were motivated by "words and conduct" which left them "seriously wronged".



Under the changes, the defence of provocation is replaced with a new defence of "loss of control" caused by "a fear of serious violence" or in response to "words or conduct which caused the defendant to have a justifiable sense of being seriously wronged".



A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "Changes to the law on murder contained in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 come into effect today.



"These changes are based on Law Commission recommendations made in their review of homicide law in 2006 and were fully debated by Parliament and passed into law in 2009.



"These changes will strengthen the law and provide for more just and equitable outcomes in individual cases."



The new law also replaces the partial defence of diminished responsibility with a new defence based on "recognised medical conditions".



The Infanticide Act 1938 is amended to make clear that the offence and defence of infanticide are only available in respect of a woman who would otherwise be found guilty of murder or manslaughter.











Men and women who kill after suffering a "slow burn" of domestic violence over a period of time could use one of the partial defences under the new law, which replaces a requirement for them to have acted on the spur of the moment.

The old law made it too easy for men to kill their wives and claim they were provoked by the victim's infidelity, but at the same time restricted the use of partial defences by women with abusive partners.



The proposals for a "slow burn" defence, where a killer takes a life after being subjected to delayed or gradual pressure, would still have a high threshold and apply equally to both men and women.



The "fear of serious violence" defence could apply, for example, when a mother kills a man after catching him trying to rape her daughter, a Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said.











Women's Aid, which works to end domestic violence against women and children, welcomed the changes.

Its chief executive Nicola Harwin said: "The new revised partial defence of provocation should help deliver fairer treatment of domestic violence victims in cases where they have killed a violent and abusive partner, often following years of abuse.



"We also welcome the fact that infidelity will no longer be treated as an acceptable defence for anyone killing a current or former partner."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders