The Objectives Of A Diminished Responsibility Law Essay

September 15, 2017 Law

Historically the primary aim for the interpolation of the defense mechanism of lessened duty into the Criminal Code 1899 ( Qld ) was to extenuate the compulsory decease sentence so imposed for a slaying strong belief. With the decease punishment now abolished the defense mechanism of lessened duty has been retained as a agency of extenuating and to better the consequence of the still current compulsory life imprisonment for a slaying strong belief in Queensland.

The principle for the keeping of this defense mechanism is that it provides an option to a strong belief of slaying for those accused who suffer from a mental frailty that is short of measure uping for a defense mechanism of ‘insanity ‘ .

Arguably several advantages and disadvantages exist in regard of the keeping of this defense mechanism.

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There are two chief countries that have been capable to unfavorable judgment in relation to the defense mechanism of lessened duty. The first concerns definitional issues taking to a deficiency of lucidity and widening of the defense mechanism. The 2nd concerns issues of process, specifically the several functions of adept informants and juries.

Definitional Issues:

It has been argued that the partial defense mechanism of lessened duty is excessively wide and cumbersome in its reading. This wideness of reading and comprehensiveness of the defense mechanism has arisen as a consequence of the ambiguity of the term ‘abnormality of head ‘ .

The ambiguity arises with mention to the term ‘abnormality of head ‘ as it is neither legislatively defined nor a term otherwise used by the psychiatric profession.[ 1 ]As a effect, the significance of abnormalcy of head has been left to judicial reading on a individual footing.

This reading on a individual footing has led the term to be given frequently wide reading. It has been argued, so wide in fact that no coherent bounds are able to be placed on the term and that ; as a effect, the defense mechanism of lessened duty introduces an unacceptable degree of vagueness into condemnable jurisprudence.


Jury/Expert Witnesses

Due to the inability to coherently set up a list of conditions that qualify for the defense mechanism and the nature of the capable affair at manus, being the finding as to whether an ‘abnormality of head ‘ exists the range for single medical practician sentiment and judgement has increased.

A wider credence of single reading by medical professionals has led to an increasing sum of conflicting sentiments and grounds that a jury is required to unknot.

In add-on to the concerns over a jury unknoting what is per se complicated medical grounds, the at odds nature of medical adept grounds arguably may give rise to excessively great a trust on the sentiments of expert informants which in bend may supply for an stepping down of duty by the jury in finding blameworthiness of the wrongdoer.

With such heavy trust on medical expert testimony it must besides be considered that this medical sentiment relies preponderantly on the information that an wrongdoer provides to a head-shrinker or psychologist and is therefore is clearly susceptible to fiction.


In relation to current condemning under the defense mechanism of lessened duty and harmonizing to the rule of the proportionality in condemning as endorsed by the High Court in Veen ( No1 )[ 2 ]and Veen ( No2 )[ 3 ]an wrongdoer with a successful defense mechanism of lessened duty must have a lighter sentence so a more blameworthy wrongdoer non enduring from an abnormalcy of head.

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This drives the concern that paradoxically the more unsafe and disordered the suspect, the shorter the sentence will be due to a successful defense mechanism of lessened duty.

This scenario is eminently demonstrated in the instance of Byrne where the accused strangled a immature miss so ‘committed dismaying mutilations upon her dead organic structure ‘ .[ 4 ]The accused was convicted of slaying at test but on entreaty the strong belief was downgraded to manslaughter based on a successful lessened duty defense mechanism.

An option to the keeping of the defense mechanism of lessened duty that has been raised is the statement that the most efficient and flexible method for covering with people who have well impaired mental maps short of measure uping for a defense mechanism of insanity is through the sentencing mechanism.

This statement is premised by concerns over the entry of frequently significant and irrelevant extenuating fortunes into a condemnable test due to the wide nature of reading presently allowable.

In support if this statement is the proviso of the Sentencing Act that allows for the fact that an wrongdoer may be enduring from a mental upset or an rational disablement to be taken into history as a mitigating factor when sentencing.[ 5 ]


The original intent of the defense mechanism was to enable an option to a compulsory life sentence for an accused charged with slaying. As Queensland maintains its place on compulsory life sentences it is arguable that the defense mechanism still serves the intent for which it was created.

In add-on to the initial intent of making the defense mechanism there are a figure of social and jury specific advantages to be gained from its keeping.

Social Perspective

From a social position it is of import for there to be a differentiation in jurisprudence between slaying and manslaughter as there is a different stigma placed on each. There is a demand to retain the defense mechanism of lessened duty in order to let an wrongdoer to hold their offense of slaying mitigated to manslaughter so that a difference in moral gravitation may be placed on the wrongdoer in appropriate instances.

In rebuttal to the proposition that extenuating fortunes should be taken into history as portion of condemning as opposed to the keeping of the defense mechanism of lessened duty it is argued that with the stigma attached to a strong belief of ‘killing ‘ another human being, society is much more likely to accept a decreased sentence based on a successful defense mechanism of lessened duty so for a decreased sentence for a slaying strong belief based on extenuating fortunes dealt with in the sentencing procedure.

A strong statement for this is that by leting a justice to do determinations sing the wrongdoer ‘s blameworthiness removes the jury from the determination procedure, ‘as a mouthpiece for the community ‘ .

The defense mechanism of lessened duty as it presently stands, provides that a jury will make up one’s mind if the wrongdoer ‘s blameworthiness is well reduced and as such allows the jury as a representative of the community to find the blameworthiness of the wrongdoer.

It is argued that this jury/community engagement in the procedure provides for more credence in the community in relation to condemning passed on strong beliefs of slaying and manslaughter. This enforces the impression that sentences will be more readily accepted in the community if finding of facts of the jury are turn toing the inquiry of blameworthiness and non a justice.


This defense mechanism besides enables jurymans the ability to convict an wrongdoer of manslaughter when if the lone option available to them was slaying they may ( perversely ) acquit wholly.

Legally a important advantage of the defense mechanism is that it offers an alternate finding of fact for an accused that was mentally disordered at the clip of the killing but does non run into the rigorous standards for the complete defense mechanism of insanity. This place of an ‘intermediate defense mechanism ‘ offers flexibleness for the jury in finding duty for an offense by grades of mental damage, ‘rather than harmonizing to a rigorous contrast between saneness and “ insanity ” ‘ .[ 6 ]


In drumhead advantages and disadvantage remain in visible radiation of the keeping of the defense mechanism of lessened duty.

Arguably the defense mechanism of lessened duty still serves the intent for which it was originally created in regard of extenuating a compulsory life sentence for slaying. The defense mechanism provides for greater community engagement in the procedure of finding an wrongdoer ‘s blameworthiness for their offense and as such provides a important advantage in the care of societies trust and assurance in the condemnable justness system.

Alternatively it has been argued that the defense mechanism should be abolished for being excessively wide and obscure in its preparation, which is blighting the pattern of condemnable defense mechanism with troubles.



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