Law Society and MPs disagree on provocation

Despite a parliamentary committee recommending the partial defence of provocation should be abolished the Law Society wants it to stay.

The justice select committee yesterday said the opportunity for a defendant to get a murder charge reduced to manslaughter because they were provoked should be removed from statute and common law.

The MPs recommended the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill should be passed into law.

Jonathan Krebbs, convenor of the society's criminal law subcommittee, today said some form of diminished responsibility was needed.

National MP, and select committee chair, Chester Borrows said diminished responsibility was catered for in sentencing.

The committee's report said the law change would still allow judges to consider provocation as a mitigating factor in sentencing.

This would mean in extreme cases someone found guilty of murder could get less than life imprisonment if the judge believed that sentence was manifestly unjust.

The MPs said they did not agree with arguments that provocation should remain as a defence for a battered defendant.

"It would be more appropriate for them to rely on self-defence, which could result in an acquittal rather than a manslaughter conviction," the report said.

The partial defence of provocation came under intense debate after Otago University tutor Clayton Weatherston argued he was provoked into stabbing his girlfriend Sophie Elliott 216 times.

In July, Ferdinand Ambach was found guilty of manslaughter rather than murder after killing 69-year-old Ronald Brown, who was gay.

Mr Brown was beaten with a banjo before the instrument's neck was rammed down his throat. It was alleged he made sexual advances to Ambach.

Some supporters of law change said the defence of provocation had generally been used to justify attacks on gay people.

Ambach and Weatherston last week both mounted appeals.

- NZPA

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