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In murder cases, the legal distinction between the pleas of provocation and diminished responsibility reflects an ethical distinction between a partial excuse for wrongdoing (provocation) and a partial denial of responsibility (diminished responsibility). This article explains what that ethical distinction is, and explains how the distinction's boundaries are contested and difficult to draw. The article explains that when the boundary is drawn in the wrong place, cases more properly regarded as ones of diminished responsibility tend to be mistakenly categorised as ones of provocation. The article looks at ways in which the courts should deal with such cases so as to reach the most just conclusion.

Keywords: Diminished Responsibility; John Gardner; Manslaughter; Murder; Provocation; R. v Smith

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 1999

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  • Until 2007 the King's Law Journal was known as the King's College Law Journal. It was established in 1990 as a legal periodical publishing scholarly and authoritative Articles, Notes and Reports on legal issues of current importance to both academic research and legal practice. It has a national and international readership, and publishes refereed contributions from authors across the United Kingdom, from continental Europe and further afield (particularly Commonwealth countries and USA). The journal includes a Reviews section containing critical notices of recently published books.
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