Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED February 7, 2003

In certain circumstances, where women in domestic situations did acts of manslaughter following provocation, a lesser sentence was sometimes justified.Appeal against sentence with leave of the single judge. On 27 May 2002 at Leeds Crown Court before HH Judge Recorder of Leeds the defendant ('C') was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of provocation and was sentenced to five years' imprisonment. On 23 May 2001 C had killed the man who she had lived with for six months. C had met the victim ('V') whilst working as an escort. V was a very successful businessman. C and V had unusual sexual practices, described by the judge as "depraved". C was usually a willing participant, however, the experimentation eventually went further than she wanted and unwanted sex became more frequent. V was a control freak who made C break all relationships with her friends, isolated her from her family and controlled all the money. On 23 May C told V she wanted him to leave. He became angry and aggressive threatening to kill C and her four-year-old daughter. V then became aroused and C agreed to have sex with him to try and calm him down, and they went to the bedroom. There was an axe in the bedroom which V had put there. V stripped naked and C handcuffed, blindfolded and gagged him, which was part of their normal sexual activity. C was trying to calm V down and offered to let her daughter become involved in the sex (it was accepted by the court that the daughter had never been involved). C then picked up the axe and hit V, V stood up and C hit him several more times as she was afraid of what he was going to do. V died. C got dressed and left with her daughter. Six weeks later she admitted killing V and said that she had suffered amnesia immediately following the event. The sentencing judge described her as of good character with no violent tendencies. What had happened was out of character, she was a good mother and it was the deceased who had taken the axe to the bedroom. However, taking life was always grave and a sentence of five years was therefore appropriate. C appealed sentence on the grounds that: (i) it was too high as there were features that made the case very unusual and merited a lesser sentence; and (ii) C's actions had to be assessed against the background of control and the element of sexual abuse which had become more prominent as the relationship developed. V had made very serious threats to C and her daughter and the fact that he took the axe to the bedroom caused C to take the threats seriously.HELD: (1) The court was referred to several authorities where it had dealt with domestic violence manslaughter. In R v Gardner (1993) 14 Cr App 364, R v Granger 1 Cr App R 396 and R v Higgings (1996) CAR(S) 271 probation was substituted for the sentences passed, albeit after some of the term was served. (2) Each case turned on its own special facts. However, the authorities did suggest that in certain circumstances a lower sentence should be passed where women in domestic situations did acts of manslaughter following acts of provocation. (3) In all the circumstances the sentence was excessive but this was a case where C required a prison sentence. The sentence of five years would be quashed and a term of three and a half years substituted.Appeal allowed.