Fear, loss of control and cognitive neuroscience
This article considers the introduction of the partial defence to murder of loss of control in England and Wales. It examines whether the structuring of one of the triggers of the defence around the need for fear of serious violence will be helpful to jurors. The article looks at the case law of three jurisdictions: England and Wales, Germany and Australia. It considers a case from each jurisdiction which required the evaluation by the court as to whether someone who killed his or her abusive partner deserved to be excused criminal responsibility. The article considers how the fear of serious violence might be interpreted in the future by the English courts; and whether the jury will be able to appreciate the circumstances of an abused person when evaluating his or her actions. It will also consider how expert evidence may or may not help and what neuroscience tells us about the emotional states of anger and fear. Finally, it concludes by considering the question are these emotional states separable and, if they are not, will that pose a difficulty for jurors?