The Defence of Provocation in Criminal Law

I was provoked into committing a crime, will I be found guilty? 

What is provocation?

Under the English Legal system, provocation can be a defence to murder where the defendant pleads a sudden loss of self control as a direct result of things done or said by another person.

Is provocation a defence?

Provocation is a special defence, and it is only available as a defence to murder. Provocation can also be used as a partial defence to murder which would reduce the liability from murder to manslaughter. Your solicitor will advise you whether to use provocation as a full or partial defence depending on the surrounding circumstances of the case.

The reasons for allowing provocation as a defence

  • A person who commits murder under provocation is not considered in control of their own mind. Not necessarily as blameworthy as someone who commits murder in cold blood with every intention of murder being a result.
  • By allowing provocation as a defence to murder justice is served to those who deserve punishment, and the punishment fits the crime appropriately.

S3 Homicide Act 1957

This section lays out a two part test to be considered where there is a charge of murder and there is evidence to show that the person charged with murder was provoked either by things done or by things said, and that the provocation made that person lose self-control and commit the murder.

The test was created to see if the reasonable person would have acted in the same way as the person charged with the murder to help the jury decide whether that person should be guilty of murder, manslaughter or no crime at all.  

The 2 requirements needed to allow a defence of provocation

  • Firstly, the person charged with the murder was provoked either by things done or by things said and this caused him to lose his self-control and commit the murder in question.
  • Secondly, the provocation was enough to make any reasonable man act in the same way as the defendant did in the same circumstances.

If a jury is satisfied that both these requirements are sufficiently met then provocation should be allowed as a defence. Whether or not provocation will be used as a partial or full defence to murder will depend on the circumstances and a solicitor will advise you on which route to take.

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For more information on:

  • What may cause the loss of self-control? 
  • The loss of self-control must be sudden and temporary 
  • Must the loss of self control immediately following the provoking act? 
  • Was the provoking act enough to make a reasonable person act in the same way as the defendant did? 
  • Did the defendant use the expected amount of self control that would be likely of the reasonable person?