How Criminal Barristers Defend Murder Charges

Murder or homicide is one of the most severe crimes with which any individual can be charged. If you are arrested for this criminal act, it will not be long before you need to be represented in court to determine your innocence. While it is possible for an individual to represent themselves in court, this is not recommended. In fact, many people who choose to self-represent find that they suffer longer sentences than if they were to use the services of a lawyer. This article will discuss the use of a barrister in murder charges and the defences he or she would use.

Intention And Malice

Under the common law of England and Wales, murder is defined as the case where one individual kills another human being. For murder to be considered murder, it is necessary that the act was intentional and premeditated. If intention is not proved, the case could be considered as manslaughter, and the sentence may not be as severe. Furthermore, if premeditated malice is not found, it is possible to consider the act as involuntary manslaughter which is even less severe than manslaughter.

Complete Defences

According to criminal law in the UK, there are two separate categories regarding defence for an individual charged with murder. When using complete defences, a criminal barrister could refer to the insanity defence or the double effect defence.

When using an insanity defence, the barrister will argue that the individual is not responsible for his or her actions due to an episodic psychotic state. This means that the individual experienced a short period of insanity when conducting the murder. An individual who is successful with this defence will be held in an institution until they are considered safe to re-enter society.

The double effect defence is another medical defence conducted by criminal barristers. This defence is based on the principle of double effect where the nature of the act is argued to be good despite the unethical actions. For example, Judge Devlin established in the trial of Dr Bodkin Adams that the administration of lethal drugs to a patient, resulting in death, was not considered murder because it contributed to the alleviation of pain.

Partial Defences

Partial defences used by criminal barristers are typically associated with the reduction of murder charges to voluntary manslaughter. The most common defences used include diminished responsibility. According to diminished responsibility, the individual charged did not intend to murder or cause bodily harm to the other party because of reduced mental capacity. This is known as ‘mens rea’ and allows the judge to sentence the individual to receive mental health treatment.

One barrister with vast experience in defending those accused of murder or manslaughter is Michael Wolkind QC.