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'Battered woman syndrome' and the defence of provocation: two women with something more in common

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Psychiatric evidence may be admissible in cases where provocation is a defence against a charge of murder. It is admissible if it assists the understanding of the defendant's characteristics insofar as they affect the perceived gravity of the provocation. It may shed light on characteristics that put the defence out of reach of some defendants. The leading cases of Ahluwalia {1992}, Humphreys {1995} and Thornton {1996} are used to illustrate how psychiatric evidence is relevant to homicide cases involving the 'battered woman syndrome' (BWS). Two unreported cases are used to illustrate further how psychiatric evidence may support the defence of provocation in BWS cases. It is suggested that such cases require an analysis of the abuse and its effects, elucidation of the defendant's characteristics, attention to the role of intoxication and identification of a real link between the characteristics and what would appear to have been provocative words or behaviour.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2001

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