Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED January 27, 2003

In light of fresh evidence, which indicated that the defendant was suffering from a severe personality disorder amounting to an abnormality of the mind at the time of the offence, the conviction for murder was unsafe, and a verdict of manslaughter due to diminished responsibility, would be substituted.Appeal against conviction on a reference from the Criminal Cases Review Committee ('CCRC') under s.9 Criminal Appeal Act 1995. On 18 January 1980 at Birmingham Crown Court, before Stephen Brown J, the defendant ('H') was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. A tariff of ten years was set. The victim was the ten-week old daughter of H, she died on 18 February 1979 from bronchopneumonia as a consequence of a severe skull fracture, that happened a week earlier. Evidence from a pathologist suggested that the baby had been swung by the legs against a hard surface. H was arrested on suspicion of murder, he admitted hitting the baby on her head but only with his hand. At trial H denied inflicting the fatal injury, but said if he had, he had no intention of seriously harming her. The only medical report available at trial was from a prison doctor. The report stated that although H had been brought up in poor circumstances and had suffered emotional deprivation he showed no signs of abnormality of the mind. On 23 January 1981 the Court of Appeal heard and dismissed H's renewed appeal against conviction. The CCRC referred the case on the basis of new psychiatric reports, from two different doctors, which indicated H was suffering a personality disorder at the time of the offence and had had available the defence of diminished responsibility.HELD: (1) The doctors who prepared the psychiatric reports were totally unconnected and had not conferred. They both came to the same conclusion that H was suffering from a severe personality disorder, which amounted to an abnormality of the mind. That disorder was traceable to adverse childhood experiences. (2) The court was of the clear view that if the jury had had such evidence before them they would have been unlikely to have convicted H of murder. (3) The court exercised its discretion under s.3 Criminal Appeal Act 1968 and entered a verdict of the lesser offence of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.Appeal allowed.