Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED October 15, 2003

The defendant's appeal against her conviction for murder failed as the substance of the material on which fresh medical evidence was based was known at trial and the defendant had a full opportunity to put forward her defence at trial.Appeal against conviction for murder. On 16 May 2001 the appellant ('J') was convicted of the murder of her boyfriend ('V') and sentenced to life imprisonment. On 16 September 2000 J and V argued throughout the day and V was subsequently hit over the head with a cricket bat and stabbed with a kitchen knife. During police questioning J contended that V had tried to have intercourse with her and had threatened her that evening. She said that she had taken the cricket bat to bed to protect herself and later the knife with which to threaten him. She stated that she awoke to find V hitting her, that she hit him with the cricket bat and that he must have come forward onto the knife in the dark. She also stated that he had been violent to her on one occasion in the past. J was medically assessed by several doctors before trial and stated that she had suffered anal rape by V and that she had been sexually abused as a child. At trial the view of the psychiatrist instructed on J's behalf was that her depressive symptoms and hormonal status had affected her at the time of V's death. There were several discrepancies in J's accounts that the Crown relied on to assert that J had killed V in vengeance. The issues for the trial jury to consider were accident, self-defence, intent, provocation and diminished responsibility. The jury resolved all the issues in favour of the Crown. J was seen by other psychiatrists after her trial, who diagnosed her with a personality disorder that could amount to an abnormality of mind for the purposes of s.2 Homicide Act 1957. J argued two grounds of appeal: (i) there was fresh psychiatric evidence now available, in relation to her allegations of being sexually abused as a child, which supported her defence of diminished responsibility; and (ii) a clearer picture emerged from this evidence of J's mental characteristics that would have assisted the jury in relation to the issue of provocation. She sought leave to argue a third ground of appeal that the judge failed to properly direct the jury as to the effect of lies when considering diminished responsibility.HELD: (1) The allegations of anal rape and self-defence were critical issues at trial and the fresh medical evidence did not cast any further light upon them. J had the benefit of expert psychiatric evidence at the time of trial and the substance of the material upon which the additional psychiatrists relied was known then. Once it was recognised that J's account of her last hours with V was rejected by the jury, there was no conduct to which the defence of diminished responsibility could properly have been applied. It could not seriously be contended that J's abnormality of mind was such as to substantially impair her mental responsibility for her acts. No psychiatrist's views went that far and, anyhow, that was a question for the jury. It was not sufficient for J to establish a relevant abnormality of the mind. The jury must have come to the conclusion that J was wholly unreliable. They could not have found that she was provoked as she had denied this in her own evidence. J had a full and proper opportunity to put forward her defence at trial. Accordingly there was no substance in her first two grounds of appeal. (2) It was difficult to envisage a circumstance in which a direction with regard to the defendant's lies would be required in relation to an issue of diminished responsibility. The judge had given a clear direction on the effect of J's lies. Any attempt to extend that direction to embrace the issue of diminished responsibility would have been wholly unnecessary and confusing for the jury. The jury would have been aware from the judge's careful summing-up that the issue of diminished responsibility depended on the medical evidence that they had heard and was a discrete issue in respect of which J's credibility was not directly relevant. Leave to appeal against conviction on the third ground was therefore refused.Appeal dismissed.

[2003] EWCA Crim 2750