Regina (Director of Public Prosecutions) v Camplin: HL 1978

The court considered the direction to be given as to the existence of provocation so as to reduce a charge of murder to one of manslaughter. The reasonable man in the definition should be one with the defendant’s mental condition. ‘The judge should state what the question is using the very terms of the section. He should then explain to them that the reasonable man referred to in the question is a person having the power of self-control to be expected of an ordinary person of the sex and age of the accused, but in other respects sharing such of the accused’s characteristics as they think would affect the gravity of the provocation to him; and that the question is not merely whether such a person would in like circumstances be provoked to lose his self-control but also whether he would react to the provocation as the accused did.’
The section was intended to mitigate in some degree ‘the harshness of the common law of provocation as it had been developed in recent decisions in this House.’
A reasonable man: ‘means an ordinary person of either sex, not exceptionally excitable or pugnacious, but possessed of such powers of self control as everyone is entitled to expect that his fellow citizens will exercise in society as it is today.’ It would stultify much of the mitigation of the previous harshness of the common law in ruling out verbal provocation as capable of reducing murder to manslaughter if the jury could not take into consideration all those factors which in their opinion would affect the gravity of taunts or insults when applied to the person whom they are addressed. So to this extent at any rate the unqualified proposition accepted by this House in Bedder v. Director of Public Prosecutions [1954] 1 W.L.R. 1119 that for the purposes of the ‘reasonable man’ test any unusual physical characteristics of the accused must be ignored requires revision as a result of the passing of the Act of 1957.’ As to why it would be wrong not to allow for the youth of the defendant: ‘It was because: ‘So to direct them was to impose a fetter on the right and duty of the jury which the Act accords to them to act upon their own opinion on the matter.’ This, in my view, goes to the heart of the matter and is in accordance with the analysis of the effect of section 3 which I have made earlier in my speech. The jury is entitled to act upon its own opinion of whether the objective element of provocation has been satisfied and the judge is not entitled to tell them that for this purpose the law requires them to exclude from consideration any of the circumstances or characteristics of the accused.’


Lord Diplock, Lord Simon of Glaisdale


[1978] AC 705, [1978] 2 All ER 168, [1978] UKHL 2




Homicide Act 1957 3


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedRegina v Pearce CACD 11-Dec-2001
The defendant appealed against his conviction for murder. He said that the court had not allowed his alcoholism as a characteristic for the purposes of testing the defence of provocation, and that the evidence of his long standing partner should be . .
AppliedRegina v Morhall HL 21-Jul-1995
The defendant was a glue sniffer. He had been taunted, and eventually attacked one of those villifying him. The judge excluded from the jury that the characteristics he suffered as a glue sniffer which might affect his response to provocation.
CitedArleigh Hector James v The Queen PC 22-Mar-1999
PC (Barbados) The defendant appealed his conviction for murder. He claimed provocation. He had a history of mental illness.
Held: Though the judge had failed to give a satisfactory direction with regard to . .
CitedRegina v Smith (Morgan James) HL 27-Jul-2000
The defendant had sought to rely upon the defence of provocation. He had suffered serious clinical depression.
Held: When directing a jury on the law of provocation, it was no longer appropriate to direct the jury to disregard any particular . .
CitedRegina v Rowland CACD 12-Dec-2003
The appellant had been convicted of murder. He sought to have substituted a conviction for manslaughter following Smith, and in the light of evidence as to his mental characteristics.
Held: ‘in the context of the law of provocation, the . .
CitedWeller, Regina v CACD 26-Mar-2003
The defendant appealed against his conviction for murder, saying that provocation should have been found. The issue was whether or not, in the course of his summing-up, the trial judge should have left, and if so whether he had left, to the jury the . .
CitedRuth Ellis v Regina CACD 8-Dec-2003
In 1955, the deceased defendant was convicted of murder, and later hanged. The court considerd a post mortem appeal by the CRCC and her family. It was suggested that she should have been found guilty of manslaughter having been provoked by the . .
CitedJohn Cochrane v Her Majesty’s Advocate HCJ 13-Jun-2001
. .
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 . .
FollowedLuc Thiet Thuan v The Queen PC 2-Apr-1996
(Hong Kong) On a trial for murder the defendant relied on the defences of diminished responsibility and provocation. Medical evidence showed the defendant suffered from brain damage and was prone to respond to minor provocation by losing his . .
CitedJames, Regina v; Regina v Karimi CACD 25-Jan-2006
The defendants appealed their convictions for murder, saying that the court had not properly guided the jury on provocation. The court was faced with apparently conflicting decision of the House of Lords (Smith) and the Privy Council (Holley).
CitedRegina v Parker CACD 25-Feb-1997
The defendant appealed his conviction for murder, saying that his defence of provocation should have been left for the jury.
Held: Not following Luc, it was open to admit relevant evidence on the defendant’s capacity for self-control. Having . .
CitedAdolphus Campbell v The State PC 20-Aug-1999
PC (Trinidad and Tobago) The defendant appealed his conviction for murder. The Board considered whether the Court of Appeal should consider additional medical evidence. He was said to have attacked the deceased, . .
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 . .
CitedDirector of Public Prosecutions v Nelson PC 16-Feb-2015
Court of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (Antigua and Barbuda) Both prosecutor and dfeendant appealed against a decision of the remitting court to substitute a conviction for manslaughter for an original conviction for murer. The . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 07 June 2022; Ref: scu.182387