The partial defence of diminished responsibility can still be relied upon by someone suffering a recognised medical illness who is voluntarily intoxicated, but only if the criteria in section 2(1) of the Homicide Act 1957 are met.
The Appellant was a paranoid schizophrenic and habitual drug user. In June 2015, he went on a three-day drug and alcohol binge and whilst in the grip of a psychotic episode, he stabbed someone to death. At trial, there was disagreement between doctors with regards to the trigger underlying the Appellant's psychotic state. Two doctors believed that the Appellant suffered a drug dependency which together with the schizophrenia substantially impaired his responsibility for his actions. A third doctor however believed that the Appellant's schizophrenia was stable and that his psychotic state arose from voluntary induced intoxication. The jury rejected the defence case that the Appellant was dependent on drugs and that this dependency combined with the schizophrenia substantially impaired his responsibility for his actions. The Appellant was therefore convicted of murder.
The Appellant brought an appeal on the basis that someone with paranoid schizophrenia who kills, whilst suffering a psychotic episode, should not be debarred from relying upon the partial defence of diminished responsibility based on their voluntary intoxication. It was argued that the jury were wrongly left with a binary choice. Either schizophrenia and dependency syndrome equals guilty of manslaughter, or schizophrenia and voluntary intoxication equals guilty of murder.
The law does not prevent someone who suffers from schizophrenia from relying on the partial defence of diminished responsibility where voluntary intoxication triggers the psychotic state, however they must meet the criteria in section 2(1) of the Homicide Act 1957. Therefore, it must be established on the balance of probabilities that the abnormality of mental functioning (the psychotic state) arose from a recognised medical condition (schizophrenia) which substantially impaired his responsibility. The recognised medical condition may be schizophrenia of such severity that, even without intoxication, it substantially impaired the Appellant's responsibility or the recognised medical condition may be schizophrenia coupled with an alcohol/drugs dependency syndrome which together substantially impair responsibility. However, if the abnormality of mental functioning arose from voluntary intoxication alone, and not from a recognised medical condition, an accused cannot avail himself to the partial defence. The law is clear, voluntary intoxication cannot relieve an offender of responsibility for murder, save where it is relevant to the question of intent.
In this case, the medical evidence did not show that the Appellant's underlying illness was of such a degree that, independent of alcohol and/or drug abuse, it substantially impaired his responsibility. The jury took the view that the Appellant's condition was stable and there was no further evidence to support a partial defence based on schizophrenia alone. Once the jury rejected the defence position that the Appellant was suffering from dependency syndrome, he no longer had a defence. The appeal was dismissed.
12 July 2017