Vasquez v The Queen; O’Neil v The Queen: PC 26 Oct 1994

(Belize) The burden of proof on provocation in a murder case remained with the prosecution despite the constitution. The Belize Criminal Code imposed no more than an evidential burden on the accused: ‘In their Lordships’ view section 116(a) of the Code, by placing the burden of proof of provocation upon an accused, is in conflict with section 6(3)(a) of the Constitution and must accordingly be modified to conform therewith. Their Lordships consider that section 116(a) should be construed as though the prefatory words of the section read: ‘A person who intentionally causes the death of another person by unlawful harm shall be deemed to be guilty only of manslaughter, and not of murder, if there is such evidence as raised a reasonable doubt as to whether he was deprived of the power of self-control by such extreme provocation given by the other person as is mentioned in section 117;’ and that the prefatory words of section 119 (1) should be construed as though they read: ‘Notwithstanding the existence of such evidence as is referred to in section 116(a) the crime of the accused shall not be deemed to be thereby reduced to manslaughter if it appear, either from the evidence given on his behalf, or from evidence given on the part of the prosecution . . ‘ It follows that the trial judge misdirected the jury on onus of proof and the conviction for murder must be quashed.’ A judge need not be astute to conjure up hypothetical situations in which provocation could conceivably have arisen if the issue is not directly raised in evidence. He should only direct the jury on provocation if there is evidence before the court which, if believed, might be taken by a reasonable jury to support this defence.


Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle


Gazette 26-Oct-1994, [1994] 1 WLR 1304, [1994] 3 All ER 674


Belize Criminal Code 115 to 119



Cited by:

CitedGhaidan v Godin-Mendoza HL 21-Jun-2004
Same Sex Partner Entitled to tenancy Succession
The protected tenant had died. His same-sex partner sought a statutory inheritance of the tenancy.
Held: His appeal succeeded. The Fitzpatrick case referred to the position before the 1998 Act: ‘Discriminatory law undermines the rule of law . .
CitedMichael Yearwood v The Queen PC 26-Jun-2001
PC (Grenada) The defendant appealed against his conviction for murder. He claimed a misdirection on provocation.
Held: The judge’s direction had been over elaborate, and gave too much weight to the old law. . .
CitedBrowne v The Queen PC 6-May-1999
(St Christopher and Nevis) The appellant had been convicted of murder whilst still a youth. He had accordingly been sentenced to be detained ‘during [the Governor-General’s] pleasure; and if so sentenced he shall be liable to be detained in such . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Crime, Commonwealth

Updated: 06 August 2022; Ref: scu.90128