Saturday, December 17, 2005


A while back I wrote about the sexist nature of our legal definition of provocation. You can be convicted of manslaughter rather than murder if you were provoked, but it was based on an assumption that you'd killed someone the same size as you or smaller, because if you had a weapon that was premedication. There was a high-profile case about ten years ago when a woman was found guilty of murder for killing her abusive husband.

Anyway Christine King who put 50 sleeping pills in her partners food was convicted of manslaughter, and sentanced to 4 and a half years. This is what the judge said

"I accept he abused you physically, sexually and verbally," Justice Young said.

"That he took the mileage of the family car to see how far you travelled illustrates the point and I accept it occurred regularly."

Justice Young described the degree of provocation experienced by King over eight years as "at the top end of the medium range" and on the night of Roycroft's death it was "at the low end".
I'd hate to see what the top end provocation was if being abused physically, sexually, and verbally is the medium range. Although it is just possible that the judge is a sexist asshole who doesn't get it.


  1. There are many people who are abused but at the same time we dont want to simply say you are abused therefore you can kill the abuser. the proble there is that as bad as abuse is it is less than murder. if hte murder stops the abuse it does some good but it is rather like beating people senseless to stop them parking illegally - the solution is worse than the problem.

    Now the issue of having a weapon seems to be what do we want to encourage. Lets say you're hit by a man - you are angry and you want to confront him - you can walk in there and punch him or you can go get the gun and confront him. Option one gets you beaten up - option two gets his brains all over your nice carpet. The public as a whole would prefer you dont kill him - it degrades you and it kills him. But if in the course of a hand to hand battle you happened to hit him in the throat and he died your defense could easily be "if I wanted to kill him I would have gotten the gun" ie you at least didnt go out of your way to ensure you would kill him.

    I know it isn't quite this simple, but if you have the ability to plan to get the weapon one must ask why you dont have the ability to plan to get out of a dysfunctional relationship. And if you dont have the ability to get out of a dysfunctional relationship without killing the person maybe we should be very careful about what we allow you to do in the future.

  2. i'm sure i wrote a medium length comment here already about how provocation doesn't fit situations of "battered wives syndrome" but it's gone :-(

    thinking about it some more now it seems to me to be a peculiar mix of self-defence and insanity (as defences) - that the abuse so unhinges you that killing the abuser seems the only viable form of self-defence.

    but the legal system is a LOOOOOOONG way away from anything like that.

  3. I guess I should make clear that I'm against jail in general and don't have any respect for our justice system.

    So when I analyse these things, I'm not saying what I think should happen, I'm just trying to talk about what they say about our society.

    In this case the fact that a judge described as on the high end of medium level provocation. What would be the high end of provocation?

    And I wanted to draw attention that she was in this situation in the first place. Where she was drugging him to stop, and felt she couldn't escape. Which could well have been true, leaving an abusive man is the most dangerous time in a relationship (except possibly pregnancy).

  4. All people are basicaly the same.
    Everyone who kills because to them killing seems to be the only option in some sense. whether it is because they were beaten as children or because they wee spoilt and enver taught respect for life or beaten the day before.
    Sometimes they are happy about it or sad but and some times it is easier or harder to understand but that is only a comment about our own limitations as observers.

    We get to pick some we want to put in jail and some we wnat to set free. Maybe those most likely to reoffend or those most likely to be role models.