In this case, R. V Kiranjit Ahluwalia1, the appellant is kiranjit Ahluwalia and the respondent is Regina (the Crown). The Legal issue in the case was whether the use of provocation as a defense could stand as she had sufficient time to consider her action and also if it could stand as a defence to person who has suffered domestic abuse with resulted in a battered woman’s syndrome.
The Crown court convicted her of Murder and rejected the defence of provocation. The court of appeal overturned the conviction and ordered a retrial.
Facts On the night of May 9,1989, The appellant, who had endured 10 years of domestic abuse was attacked by her husband who threatened to burn her face with an Iron and beat her the next day. Later that night while he was asleep, she poured a mixture of caustic soda and petrol on him and set him on fire. Her Husband died 10 days later in the hospital from the severe burns.
Lord Taylor C.J rejected the appellant’s submission that the Duffy2 Direction as found in Delvin J’s judgment used by the Judge at first instance was wrong and that direction was based on a failure to understand the impact of section 3 of the Homicide Act3 as supported by the House of Lords in DPP v Camplin4. He found that although in DPP v Camplin5, Lord Diplock in his judgment referred to that section 6as “abolishing all previous rules of law as to what can. amount to provocation”7, he did not provide a new definition. Lord Taylor Further looked into a case R v Thornton8 where a similar submission to that of the defendant was considered but rejected by the court.
The appellant submitted that the phrase “sudden and temporary” loss of control might lead to jury to assume that provocation is only used in situations where the fatal act was performed immediately after the alleged provocation. He boldly stated that this direction was incorrect and goes against authorities9. The counsel for the appellant goes further to say that based on expert evidence, women with a long history of violent treatment may react to provocation with what he calls a slow burn reaction rather than an instantaneous loss of self control.10
The Judge held that the phrase “sudden and temporary loss of control’ summarizes the main idea of the defence of provocation, and that its main purpose as a defence is strictly concerned with the actions of an individual who as not that that moment master of his own mind. However, the longer the interval of time between the provocation and the fatal act the stronger the evidence on deliberation.11
The appellant’s second submission concerned the way the judge in the first instance referenced sudden and temporary loss of self-control to the jury in the direction. The appellant submitted that this direction was incorrect. He also proposed that the learned Judge’s direction regarding the appellant’s characteristics in an attempt to use the model set by Lord Diplock in DPP v Camplin. The counsel for the appellant criticized the learned judges direction on two grounds: Firstly, that the Judge did not mention that the appellant was suffering from a condition known as the battered woman’s syndrome which so affected her personality that it put her in a state of learnt helplessness. Secondly, that the list of characteristics should have been left open so that the jury may pick up on the fact that she suffered from a battered woman’s syndrome in making their decision.
The Judge found that in cases where a particular characteristic especially one of a mental nature sought to modify the ordinary man test, there must be evidence to support the claim. See R v Taaka12 who submitted evidence suggesting that the appellant suffered from chronic posttraumatic stress disorder. Lord Taylor held that the references to sudden and temporary loss of self control were correct and in accordance with well accepted Law.
The appellant’s last submission is in relation to the issue of diminished responsibility. The appellant gave evidence to the court in a number of psychiatric reports proving that at the time of the killing, the appellant’s mental state was diminished according to the 1957 Act13. The Judge believed that on this ground of appeal, the appellant was on stronger ground. The judge found that at the time of the killing there was in fact medical evidence to show that she was suffering from Endogenous depression, which according to some experts could be a major medical depressive disorder. In relation to the issue of a new defence, the judge allowed that a new defence could be raised in order to give the defendant the opportunity to run different defences14.
On this ground of appeal, the judge held that due to the exceptional nature of the case, considered it appropriate to admit new evidence under the 1968 Act15 and that on the ground of diminished responsibility they considered the verdict of the jury to be unsafe. As a result of this they quashed the conviction of murder and ordered a retrial.16
This case concerns one of the most pressing and important issues in our society today. It helped in essence to increase awareness of domestic abuse and violence and also it helped change the law concerning domestic abuse victims in the UK. The case most importantly changed the Laws on provocation and Battered women. The outcome of the case has also lead to the acquittal of other women in the same position as Ahluwalia see example R v Thornton17.
The court followed two precedents in resolving the issue of misdirection of the jury. I do agree with the decision on the first ground of appeal. However, I do believe that the second ground of the appellant’s appeal on the issue of “characteristics” was indeed correct.
In the Learned Judge’s direction to the jury he mentioned only the fact that she: is an Asian woman, married to an Asian man, living in the UK, and has a university degree. In my Opinion the learned judge should have left the list open so that the jury could find more characteristics to add in order to make their decision. It could be argued that the learned Judge followed the precedent as set out in DPP v Camplin18 as regards the issue of characteristics. However he failed to mention arguably the most important characteristic of all, that being that the appellant was a battered woman with a long history of domestic abuse. Despite the fact that there was no “evidence” to the fact that she was a battered woman, I believe that the evidence from doctors and people who had in fact witnessed prove of the abuse should have been enough to prove that she was a battered woman. On that issue of law, I believe that the judge should have expanded the Law a bit to allows those who had “sufficient” evidence to prove their condition to be covered by the law.
It is hard from a moral point to fault a woman who after tolerating years of physical and domestic abuse finally “loses control” and commits a fatal act. This is probably one of the reasons why this case generated a lot of public support. In the eyes of the law she is has committed a grave crime: taking another’s life but in the eyes of the society the killing was justified. The judgment I believe satisfied both parties: that of the law and the society.
Bibliography R. v Ahluwali (Kiranjit)  96 Cr. App. R. 133 R. v Duffy  1 All E.R 932 DPP v. Camplin  67 Cr.App.R. 14 Criminal Appeal Act 1968 Homicide Act 1957 Mental Health Act 1968