R v Byrne

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Date1960
Year1960
CourtCourt of Criminal Appeal
[COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEAL.] REGINA v. BYRNE. 1960 June 20; July 4. Lord Parker C.J., Hilbery and Diplock JJ.

Crime - Homicide - Diminished responsibility - Sexual pervert - “Abnormality of mind” - Standard of proof - Control of physical acts - Inability or difficulty - Relevance of medical evidence - Matters for jury's consideration - Homicide Act, 1957 (5 & 6 Eliz. 2, c. 11), s. 2 (1).

The appellant was charged with the murder of a young girl whom he had strangled and whose dead body he had mutilated. He admitted the facts of the killing and pleaded that he was suffering from diminished responsibility as defined by section 2 of the Homicide Act, 1957,F1 and was, accordingly, not guilty of murder but of manslaughter.

The judge directed the jury to the effect that if the appellant killed the girl under an abnormal sexual impulse or urge which was so strong that he found it difficult or impossible to resist it, but that he was otherwise normal, the section would not apply. He was found guilty of murder and appealed on the ground of a misdirection: —

Held, (1) that “abnormality of mind” in section 2 meant a state of mind so different from that of ordinary human beings that the reasonable man would term it abnormal and was wide enough to cover the mind's activities in all its aspects: the ability to form a rational judgment as to whether an act was right or wrong; and the ability to exercise will power to control physical acts in accordance with that rational judgment.

(2) That inability to exercise will power to control physical acts provided that it was due to abnormality of mind from one of the causes specified in section 2 (1) was sufficient to entitle the accused to the benefit of the section; difficulty in controlling his physical acts depending on the degree of difficulty, might be; it was for the jury to decide on the whole of the evidence whether such inability or difficulty had, not as a matter of scientific certainty but on the balance of probabilities, been established, and in the case of difficulty whether that was so great as to amount in their view to a substantial impairment of the accused's mental responsibility for his acts.

(3) That whether the accused was suffering from abnormality of mind and whether the abnormality was such as substantially impaired his mental responsibility were matters for the jury on which they were entitled to disagree with the medical evidence, but the aetiology of the abnormality was a matter to be determined by expert evidence; that the direction withdrew from the jury the essential determination of fact which it was their province to decide; the medical evidence and the other evidence plainly pointed to the conclusion that the appellant was on the border-line of insanity, and properly directed, the jury could not have come to any conclusion but that the defence under section 2 (1) was made out.

APPEAL against conviction.

The appellant, Patrick Joseph Byrne, was charged with the murder of a young woman who was strangled in a Y.W.C.A. hostel in Birmingham. Mutilations were committed on the girl's dead body. The appellant admitted the facts of the killing and the only defence was that he was suffering from diminished responsibility as defined by section 2 of the Homicide Act, 1957, and was, accordingly, guilty not of murder but of manslaughter. The appellant was convicted of murder before Stable J. at Birmingham Assizes and sentenced to imprisonment for life. He appealed on the ground of misdirection by the judge.

The relevant facts are set out in the judgment of the court.

R. K. Brown Q.C. and John Owen for the appellant.

John Hobson Q.C. and Elizabeth Lane Q.C. for the Crown.

The following cases were cited in argument: Bank of England v. Vagliano Bros.F2; Reg. v. SpriggsF3; Reg. v. WaldenF4; Reg. v. Matheson.F5

Cur. adv. vult.

July 4. LORD PARKER C.J. The appellant was convicted of murder before Stable J. at Birmingham Assizes and sentenced to imprisonment for life. The victim was a young woman whom he strangled in the Y.W.C.A. hostel, and after her death he committed horrifying mutilations upon her dead body. The facts as to the killing were not disputed, and were admitted in a long statement made by the accused. The only defence was that in killing his victim the accused was suffering from diminished responsibility as defined by section 2 of the Homicide Act, 1957, and was, accordingly, guilty not of murder but of...

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137 cases
  • R v Khan (Dawood)
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)
    • 27 July 2009
    ...impaired his mental responsibility for his acts and omissions in doing or being a party to the killing.” 13 In the leading case of R v Byrne [1960] 2 QB 396, the Court of Criminal Appeal considered the correct interpretation of section 2(1) of the 1957 Act. Two aspects of the reserved judgm......
  • Jagatheesan s/o Krishnasamy v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 24 July 2006
  • Zailani bin Ahmad v Public Prosecutor
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 23 November 2004
    ...responsibility is clear. The seminal case in this respect is the decision of the English Court of Criminal Appeal in R v Byrne [1960] 2 QB 396, which has subsequently been cited with approval in many cases in our jurisdiction dealing with the defence including Tengku 50 Dealing with the fir......
  • R v Egan
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)
    • 13 May 1992
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24 books & journal articles
  • Court of Appeal
    • United Kingdom
    • Sage Journal of Criminal Law, The No. 71-2, April 2007
    • 1 April 2007
    ...responsibility, as a partial defence provided ins. 2 of the Homicide Act 1957, is a decision for the jury, but following R vByrne [1960] 2 QB 396 at 402 it may not be returned unless there ismedical evidence to support the requirement in s. 2(1) that the defend-ant had been suffering from a......
  • Recognising Acute Intoxication as Diminished Responsibility? A Comparative Analysis
    • United Kingdom
    • Sage Journal of Criminal Law, The No. 76-1, February 2012
    • 1 February 2012
    ...JC 1 at [54], point 5.44 Chalmers, above n. 38.45 ‘Abnormality of mind’ was described by Lord Parker CJ, in the leading case of R vByrne [1960] 2 QB 396 at 403, CA, as ‘a state of mind so different from that ofordinary human beings that the reasonable man would term it abnormal. Itappears t......
  • Table of Cases
    • United Kingdom
    • Sage International Journal of Evidence & Proof, The No. 13-4, November 2009
    • 1 November 2009
    .... . . . . . . . . . . 47R vBrown [2000] 1Cr App R(S) 300 . . . . . . . . . 312R vBrown (Milton) (1998)2 Cr AppR 364 . . . . . 37R vByrne [1960] 2QB 396. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92R v Calcutt and Varty (1985) 7 Cr App R (S) 385. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .......
  • 2012 index
    • South Africa
    • Juta South African Criminal Law Journal No. , August 2019
    • 16 August 2019
    ...377R v Burstow [1997] 1 Cr. App. R. ................................................... 16-17, 20-21R v Byrne 1960 (3) All ER 1 ................................................................. 54R v Chan-Fook [1994] 1 WLR ............................................................... 13-1......
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