R v Joyce and Kay  EWCA Crim 647
Court of Appeal
Regina v Kay
Regina v Joyce
2017 April 27; May 23
Hallett , Treacy LJJ, McGowan J
Crime — Homicide — Diminished responsibility — Defendant suffering from schizophrenia — Whether schizophrenia substantially impairing defendant’s responsibility for murder where triggered by consumption of alcohol or drugs
The defendant in the first of two cases had a long history of alcohol and drug abuse, and was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. During a three-day “bender” and in the grip of a psychotic episode, he stabbed the victim to death in a frenzied and brutal attack. He was charged with murder. At trial he relied on the partial defence of diminished responsibility, pursuant to section 2(1) of the Homicide Act 1957, as amended, contending that at the time of the stabbing he had been suffering from an abnormality of mental functioning which arose from a recognised medical condition, namely schizophrenia. He submitted that although he was heavily intoxicated with illegal drugs and alcohol, it was primarily the underlying schizophrenia which was responsible for his psychotic state; and that, in any event, his intoxication had not been voluntary because he also had suffered from alcohol and drugs dependency syndrome which, combined with schizophrenia, prevented him from forming a rational judgment or exercising self-control. He was convicted of murder. On his appeal against conviction, he submitted that someone with paranoid schizophrenia, who killed whilst suffering a florid psychotic episode, should not be debarred from relying upon the partial defence of diminished responsibility on the basis of his voluntary intoxication.
On the appeal—
Held, appeal dismissed. The law did not debar someone suffering from schizophrenia from relying on the partial defence of diminished responsibility where voluntary intoxication had triggered the psychotic state, but he had to meet the criteria in section 2(1) of the Homicide Act 1957, as amended. He had to establish, on the balance of probabilities, that his abnormality of mental functioning (in this case his psychotic state) arose from a recognised medical condition which substantially impaired his responsibility. The recognised medical condition might be schizophrenia of such severity that, absent intoxication, it substantially impaired his responsibility or the recognised medical condition might be schizophrenia coupled with drink/drugs dependency syndrome which together substantially impaired responsibility. However, if an abnormality of mental functioning arose from voluntary intoxication and not from a recognised medical condition an accused could not avail himself of the partial defence. The law was clear and well established: as a general rule voluntary intoxication could not relieve an offender of responsibility for murder, save where it might bear on the question of intent. In this case there was no medical evidence available to the defendant that his underlying illness, the schizophrenia, was of such a degree that, independent of drug or alcohol abuse, it impaired his responsibility substantially. His condition was stable and there was therefore no medical evidence to support a partial defence based on schizophrenia alone. Once the jury rejected the defence assertion that he was suffering from alcohol dependency syndrome, he no longer had a defence. There was therefore no additional basis upon which the case could be left to the jury (paras 16–18).
R v Stewart (James)B, CA applied.
Alistair Webster QC (assigned by the Registrar of Criminal Appeals) for the defendant in the first case.
David Hislop QC (assigned by the Registrar of Criminal Appeals) for the defendant in the second case.
Simon Medland QC and Stephen McNally (instructed by Crown Prosecution Service, Appeals Unit) for the Crown.
Reported by: Clare Barsby, Barrister