Loss of control in the appeal courts

G.R. Sullivan, Hans Crombag, John Child

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The article critiques the ‘loss of self-control’ requirement within Loss of Control partial defence, investigating its meaning (legally and scientifically), as well as its theoretical purpose. We contend that the partial defence currently performs a curious and problematic role, promoting questions of self-control, that are most effectively dealt with at a post-conviction stage (i.e., at sentencing), into questions for the liability stage. This could be (perhaps best) resolved through the abolition of the mandatory life sentence for murder, and subsequent abolition of the partial defences, but it is accepted that the current political reality weighs heavily against this option. Looking for viable alternatives, we highlight the advantages of an approach that maximises discretion based on a full appraisal of potentially extenuating circumstances; before discussing how the current partial defence, including the requirement for a loss of self-control, should be interpreted to move the current law closer to this goal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-223
Number of pages24
JournalThe Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sept 2021


  • self-control
  • diminished responsibility
  • loss of control
  • partial defences


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