skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 98418 Find in a Library
Title: Murder Into Manslaughter - The Diminished Responsibility Defence in Practice
Author(s): S Dell
Date Published: 1984
Page Count: 84
Sponsoring Agency: Oxford University Press, Inc
New York, NY 10016
Sale Source: Oxford University Press, Inc
198 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: This study examines why persons charged with murder but convicted of manslaughter under Britain's diminished responsibility defense have increasingly received prison sentences in recent years rather than hospital orders.
Abstract: Britain mandated the diminished responsibility defense in 1957 as a means of circumventing the difficulties of the mandatory murder sentence, which at that time was death for some classes of murder and life imprisonment for others. The death penalty has been abolished, but the diminished responsibility defense remains as a device for circumventing the mandatory life sentence for murder. This study focuses on a change in recent years on the sentences given those who have successfully used this defense. In 1964, half of the diminished-responsibility offenders were given hospital orders, with an increase to 70 percent by the end of the decade. The proportion of hospital orders then started to decline, falling to a third in the 1970's and then to one-fourth; simultaneously, the use of imprisonment for these offenders increased substantially. This research, begun in 1978, focused on the years 1966-77. A two-thirds sample was randomly selected from the diminished capacity offenders for 1966-69 and a one-third sample from the offenders convicted in 1970-77, yielding a total sample of 253 men. The basic data source was the prosecution's documentation for each case. Findings show that the underlying reason for the sentencing change was the reduction in the number of cases for which reporting doctors recommended a hospital order. The judges then sentenced most offenders to custodial rather than noncustodial sentences apparently for the purpose of retribution. The confusion in sentencing such offenders would be reduced if both the mandatory sentence for murder and the diminished responsibility defense were abolished, thus enabling judges to sentence in murder cases based upon particular mitigating and aggravating factors. Tabular and graphic data, a subject index, and 35 reference listings are provided.
Index Term(s): Diminished capacity defense; Great Britain/United Kingdom; Manslaughter; Murder; Sentencing factors; Sentencing reform
Note: Maudsley Monographs, number 27.
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.