Mancini v Director of Public Prosecutions: HL 1941

There are exceptional cases to the rule in Woolmington for: ‘offences where onus of proof is specially dealt with by statute’. ‘There is no reason to repeat to the jury the warning as to reasonable doubt again and again, provided that the direction is plainly given.’ The House considered the reasonable man test in the defence of provocation to a charge of murder: ‘The test to be applied is that of the effect of the provocation on a reasonable man . . so that an unusually excitable or pugnacious individual is not entitled to rely on provocation which would not have led an ordinary person to act as he did.’ As to the judge’s duty: ‘Although the appellant’s case at the trial was in substance that he had been compelled to use his weapon in necessary self-defence – a defence which, if it had been accepted by the jury, would have resulted in his complete acquittal – it was undoubtedly the duty of the judge, in summing up to the jury, to deal adequately with any other view of the facts which might reasonably arise out of the evidence given, and which would reduce the crime from murder to manslaughter. The fact that a defending counsel does not stress an alternative case before the jury (which he may well feel it difficult to do without prejudicing the main defence) does not relieve the judge from the duty of directing the jury to consider the alternative, if there is material before the jury which would justify a direction that they should consider it. . . . Whatever the line of defence adopted by counsel at the trial of a prisoner, we are of opinion that it is for the judge to put such questions as appear to him properly to arise upon the evidence, even although counsel may not have raised some question himself.’ and ‘The possibility of a verdict of manslaughter instead of murder only arises when the evidence given before the jury is such as might satisfy them as the judges of fact that the elements were present which would reduce the crime to manslaughter, or, at any rate, might induce a reasonable doubt whether this was, or was not, the case.’


Viscount Simon LC


[1942] AC 1, [1941] 3 All ER 272


England and Wales


CitedWoolmington v Director of Public Prosecutions HL 23-May-1935
Golden Thread of British Justice – Proof of Intent
The appellant had been convicted of the murder of his wife. She had left him and returned to live with her mother. He went to the house. He said he intended to frighten her that he would kill himself if she did not return. He wired a shotgun to . .
ApprovedRegina v Hopper CCA 1914
Lord Reading CJ said: ‘We do not assent to the suggestion that as the defence throughout the trial was accident, the judge was justified in not putting the question as to manslaughter. Whatever the line of defence adopted by counsel at the trial of . .

Cited by:

CitedRegina v Derek William Bentley (Deceased) CACD 30-Jul-1998
The defendant had been convicted of murder in 1952, and hung. A court hearing an appeal after many years must apply laws from different eras to different aspects. The law of the offence (of murder) to be applied was that at the time of the offence. . .
CitedGeorge Worme Grenada Today Limited v The Commissioner of Police PC 29-Jan-2004
PC (Grenada) The defendant was editor of a newspaper which carried a story severely defamatory of the prime minister. He was convicted of criminal libel, and appealed.
Held: The appeal was dismissed. The . .
CitedSheldrake v Director of Public Prosecutions; Attorney General’s Reference No 4 of 2002 HL 14-Oct-2004
Appeals were brought complaining as to the apparent reversal of the burden of proof in road traffic cases and in cases under the Terrorism Acts. Was a legal or an evidential burden placed on a defendant?
Held: Lord Bingham of Cornhill said: . .
CitedHer Majestys Attorney General for Jersey v Holley PC 15-Jun-2005
(Jersey) The defendant appealed his conviction for murder, claiming a misdirection on the law of provocation. A chronic alcoholic, he had admitted killing his girlfriend with an axe. Nine law lords convened to seek to reconcile conflicting decisions . .
CitedRegina v Coutts HL 19-Jul-2006
The defendant was convicted of murder. Evidence during the trial suggested a possibility of manslaughter, but neither the defence nor prosecution proposed the alternate verdict. The defendant now appealed saying that the judge had an independent . .
CitedKwaku Mensah v The King PC 1946
(West Africa) The judge had failed to give a direction on provocation in a murder case where the issue properly arose.
Lord Goddard said: ‘But if on the whole of the evidence there arises a question whether or not the offence might be . .
CitedMohammed, Regina v CACD 13-Jul-2005
The court granted permission to appeal against a conviction for murder on grounds that related to the judge’s summing up in respect of provocation: ‘Although Holley is a decision of the Privy Council and Morgan Smith a decision of the House of . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Criminal Practice

Updated: 25 November 2022; Ref: scu.192061