After a trial lasting almost three weeks, a defendant (represented by Jeremy Lynn) was acquitted of murder when the jury returned a verdict under s. 54 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, namely that he had killed the deceased following a loss of self-control triggered by a fear of serious violence.
The incident was dramatically captured on CCTV, when the Defendant could be seen striking the deceased a number of times with a knife. Tragically one blow penetrated the heart of the deceased who died two days later.
The Defendant’s case was that he had earlier been threatened by the deceased in a café. The deceased was ejected from the café whilst the Defendant remained inside, but when he eventually left he took a knife from the kitchen fearing that he might be attacked in the street.
The case raised some interesting questions of alternative verdicts in murder trials. A defendant can of course be convicted of manslaughter when a jury has found him not guilty of murder. But what if the jury cannot agree on murder? Can they be invited to return a verdict of guilty of manslaughter without having first acquitted of murder? Can the Crown stop a verdict being taken on manslaughter in order to preserve their right to a retrial on the murder?
Other complications that arose concerned majority verdicts. Can a juror who is in a minority on the question of whether the defendant is guilty or not of murder, contribute to a majority who are then considering manslaughter by an unlawful act, or manslaughter through loss of self-control?
The jury were out, pondering these and other unknowns, for 6 agonising days.