Director of Public Prosecutions v Camplin

[1978] AC 705, [1978] 2 All ER 168, [1978] 2 WLR 679, 67 Cr
App Rep 14, 142 JP 320
6 APRIL 1978

   LORD DIPLOCK.  My Lords, for the purpose of answering the question of law on which this appeal will turn only a brief account is needed of the facts that have given rise to it.The respondent, Camplin, who was 15 years of age, killed a middle-aged Pakistani, Mohammed Lal Khan, by splitting his skull with a chapati pan, a heavy kitchen utensil like a rimless frying pan.  At the time the two of them were alone together in Khan's flat.  At Camplin's trial for murder before Boreham J his only defence was that of provocation so as to reduce the offence to manslaughter.  According to the story that he told in the witness box but which differed materially from that which he had told to the police, Khan had buggered him in spite of his resistance and had then laughed at him, whereupon Camplin had lost his self-control and attacked Khan fatally with the chapati pan.

   In his address to the jury on the defence of provocation, counsel for Camplin had suggested to them that when they addressed their minds to the question whether the provocation relied on was enough to make a reasonable man do as Camplin had done, what they ought to consider was not the reaction of a reasonable adult but the reaction of a reasonable boy of Camplin's age.  The judge thought that this was wrong in law.  So in this summing-up he took pains to instruct the jury that they must consider whether --

   'the provocation was sufficient to make a reasonable man in like circumstances act as the defendant did.  Not a reasonable boy, as [counsel for Camplin] would have, it, or a reasonable lad; it is an objective test -- a reasonable man.'

   The jury found Camplin guilty of murder.  On appeal the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division, allowed the appeal and substituted a conviction for manslaughter on the ground that the passage I have cited from the summing-up was a misdirection.  The court held that--

   'the proper direction to the jury is to invite the jury to consider whether the provocation was enough to have made a reasonable person of the same age as the appellant in the same circumstances do as he did.'

   The point of law of general public importance involved in the case has been certified as being:

   'Whether, on the prosecution for murder of a boy of 15, where the issue of provocation arises, the jury should be directed to consider the question, under s 3 of the Homicide Act 1957, whether the provocation was enough to make a reasonable man do as he did by reference to a "reasonable adult" or by reference to a "reasonable boy of 15".'

   My Lords, the doctrine of provocation in crimes of homicide has always represented an anomaly in English law.  In crimes of violence which result in injury short of death, the fact that the act of violence was committed under provocation, which has caused the accused to lose his self-control, does not affect the nature of the offence of which he is guilty: it is merely a matter to be taken into consideration in determining the penalty which it is appropriate to impose: whereas in homicide provocation effects a change in the offence itself from murder, for which the penalty is fixed by law (formerly death and now imprisonment for life), to the lessor offence of mansslaughter, for which the penalty is in the discretion of the judge.

   The doctrine of provocation has a long history of evolution at common law. Such changes as there had been were entirely the consequence of judicial decision until Parliament first intervened by passing the Homicide Act 1957. Section 3 deals specifically with provocation and alters the law as it had been expounded in the cases, including three that had been decided comparatively recently in this House, namely Mancini v Director of Public Prosecution, Holmes v Director of Public Prosecutions and Bedder v Director of Public Prosecutions.  One of the questions in this appeal is to what extent propositions as to the law of provocation that are laid down in those cases, and in particular in Bedder , ought to be treated as being of undiminished authority despite the passing of the Homicide Act 1957.

   For my part I find it instructive to approach this question by a brief survey of the historical development of the doctrine of provocation at common law.  Its origin at a period when the penalty for murder was death is to be found, as Tindal CJ, echoing Sir Michael Foster , put it in R v Hayward , in 'the law's compassion to human infirmity'.  The human infirmity on which the law first took compassion in a violent age when men bore weapons for their own protection when going about their business appears to have been chance medley or a sudden falling out at which both parties had recourse to their weapons and fought on equal terms.  Chance medley as a ground of provocation was extended to assault and battery committed by the deceased on the accused in circumstances other than a sudden falling out.  But with two exceptions actual violence offered by the deceased to the accused remained the badge of provocation right up to the passing of the 1957 Act.  The two exceptions were the discovery by a husband of his wife in the act of committing adultery and the discovery by a father of someone committing sodomy on his son; but these apart, insulting words or gestures unaccompanied by physical attack did not in law amount to provocation.

   The 'reasonable man' was a comparatively late arrival in the law of provocation.  As the law of negligence emerged in the first half of the 19th century he became the anthropomorphic embodiment of the standard of care required by the law.  It would appear that Keating J in R v Welsh was the first to make use of the reasonable man as the embodiment of the standard of self-control required by the criminal law of persons exposed to provocation, and not merely as a criterion by which to check the credibility of a claim to have been provoked to lose his self-control made by an accused who at that time was not permitted to give evidence himself.  This had not been so previously and did not at once become the orthodox view.  In his Digest of the Criminal Law and his History of the Criminal Law Sir James Fitzjames Stephen makes no reference to the reasonable man as providing a standard of self-control by which the question whether the facts relied on as provocation are sufficient to reduce the subsequent killing to manslaughter is to be decided.  He classifies and defines the kinds of conduct of the deceased that alone are capable in law of amounting to provocation and appears to treat the questions for the jury as being limited to (1) whether the evidence establishes conduct by the deceased that falls within one of the defined classes and, if so, (2) whether the accused was thereby actually deprived of his self-control.

   The reasonable man referred to by Keating J was not then a term of legal art nor has it since become one in criminal law.  He (or she) has established his (or her) role in the law of provocation under a variety of different sobriquets in which the noun 'man' is frequently replaced by 'person' and the adjective 'reasonable' by 'ordinary', 'average' or 'normal'.  At least from as early as 1914 (see R v Lesbini ), the test of whether the defence of provocation is entitled to succeed has been a dual one: the conduct of the deceased to the accused must be such as (1) might cause in any reasonable or ordinary person and (2) actually causes in the accused a sudden and temporary loss of self-control as the result of which he commits the unlawful act that kills the deceased.  But until the 1957 Act was passed there was a condition precedent which had to be satisfied before any question of applying this dual test could arise.  The conduct of the deceased had to be of such a kind as was capable in law of constituting provocation; and whether it was or was not a question for the judge, not for the jury.  This House so held in Mancini where it also laid down a rule of law that the mode of resentment, as for instance the weapon used in the act that caused the death, must bear a reasonable relation to the kind of violence that constituted the provocation.

   It is necessary for the purposes of the present appeal to spend time on a detailed account of what conduct was or was not capable in law of giving rise to a defence of provocation immediately before the passing of the 1957 Act.  It had remained much the same as when Stephen was writing in the last quarter of the 19th century.  What, however, is important to note is that this House in Holmes had recently confirmed that words alone, save perhaps in circumstances of a most extreme and exceptional nature, were incapable in law of constituting provocation.

   My Lords, this was the state of law when Bedder fell to be considered by this House.  The accused had killed a prostitute.  He was sexually impotent. According to his evidence he had tried to have sexual intercourse with her and failed.  She taunted him with his failure and tried to get away from his grasp. In the course of her attempts to do so she slapped him in the face, punched him in the stomach and kicked him in the groin, whereupon he took a knife out of his pocket and stabbed her twice and caused her death.  The struggle that led to her death thus started because the deceased ceased taunted the accused with his physical infirmity; but in the state of the law as it then was, taunts unaccompanied by any physical violence did not constitute provocation.  The taunts were followed by violence on the part of the deceased in the course of her attempt to get away from the accused, and it may be that this subsequent violence would have a greater effect on the self-control of an impotent man already enraged by the taunts than it would have had on a person conscious of possessing normal physical attributes.  So there might be some justification for the judge to instruct the jury to ignore the fact that the accused was impotent when they were considering whether the deceased's conduct amounted to such provocation as would cause a reasonable or ordinary person to lose his self-control.  This indeed appears to have been the ground on which the Court of Criminal Appeal had approved the summing-up when they said:

   '... no distinction is to be made in the case of a person who, though it may not be a matter of temperament is physically impotent, is conscious of that impotence, and therefore mentally liable to be more excited unduly if he is "twitted" or attacked on the subject of that particular infirmity.'

   This statement, for which I have myself supplied the emphasis, was approved by Lord Simonds LC speaking on behalf of all the members of this House who sat on the appeal; but he also went on to lay down the broader proposition that :

   'It would be plainly illogical not to recognise an unusually excitable or pugnacious temperament in the accused as a matter to be taken into account but yet to recognise for that purpose some unusual physical characteristic, be it impotence or another.'

   Section 3 of the 1957 Act is in the following terms:

   'Where on a charge of murder there is evidence on which the jury can find that the person charged was provoked (whether by things done or by things said or by both together) to lose his self-control, the question whether the provocation was enough to make a reasonable man do as he did shall be left to be determined by the jury; and in determining that question the jury shall take into account everything both done and said according to the effect which, in their opinion, it would have on a reasonable man.'

   My Lords, this section was intended to mitigate in some degree the harshness of the common law of provocation as it had been developed by recent decisions in this House.  It recognises and retains the dual test: the provocation must not only have caused the accused to lose his self-control but aloso be such as might cause a reasonable man to react to it as the accused did.  Nevertheless it brings about two important changes in the law.  The first is it abolishes all previous rules of law as to what can or cannot amount to provocation and in particular the rule of law that, save in the two exceptional cases I have mentioned, words unaccompanied by violence could not do so.  Secondly it makes it clear that if there was any evidence that the accused himself at the time of the act which caused the death in fact lost his self-control in consequence of some provocation however slight it might appear to the judge, he was bound to leave to the jury the question, which is one of opinion not of law, whether a reasonable man might have reacted to that provocation as the accused did.

   I agree with my noble and learned friend, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, that since this question is one for the opinion of the jury the evidence of witnesses as to how they think a reasonable man would react to the provocation is not admissible.

   The public policy that underlay the adoption of the 'reasonable man' test in the common law doctrine of provocation was to reduce the incidence of fatal violence by preventing a person relying on his own exceptional pugnacity or excitability as an excuse for loss of self-control.  The rationale of the test may not be easy to reconcile in logic with more universal propositions as to the mental element in crime.  Nevertheless it has been preserved by the 1957 Act but falls to be applied now in the context of a law of provocation that is significantly different from what it was before the Act was passed.

   Although it is now for the jury to apply the 'reasonable man' test, it still remains for the judge to direct them what, in the new context of the section, is the meaning of this apparently inapt expression, since powers of ratiocination bear no obvious relationships to powers of self-control.  Apart from this the judge is entitled, if he thinks it helpful, to suggest considerations which may influence the jury in forming their own opinions as to whether the test is satisfied; but he should make it clear that these are not instructions which they are required to follow: it is for them and no one else to decide what weight, if any, ought to be given to them.

   As I have already pointed out, for the purposes of the law of provocation the 'reasonable man' has never been confined to the adult male.  It 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.  A crucial factor in the defence of provocation from earliest times has been the relationship between the gravity of provocation and the way in which the accused retaliated, both being judged by the social standards of the day.  When Hale was writing in the 17th century pulling a man's nose was thought to justify retaliation with a sword; when Mancini was decided by this House, a blow with a fist would not justify retaliation with a deadly weapon.  But so long as words unaccompanied by violence could not in common law amount to provocation the relevant proportionality between provocation and retaliation was primarily one of degrees of violence.  Words spoken to the accused before the violence started were not normally to be included in the proportion sum.  But now that the law has been changed so as to permit of words being treated as provocation, even though unaccompanied by any other acts, the gravity of verbal provocation may well depend on the particular characteristics or circumstances of the person to whom a taunt or insult is addressed.  To taunt a person because of his race, his physical infirmities or some shameful incident in his past may well be considered by the jury to be more offensive to the person addressed, however equable his temperament, if the facts on which the taunt is founded are true than it would be if they were not.  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 and insults when applied to the person to whom they are addressed.  So to this extent at any rate the unqualified proposition accepted by this House in Bedder 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 1957 Act.

   That he was only 15 years of age at the time of the killing is the relevant characteristic of the accused in the instant case.  It is a characteristic which may have its effects on temperament as well as physique.  If the jury think that the same power of self-control is not to be expected in an ordinary, average or normal boy of 15 as in and older person, are they to treat the lesser powers of self-control possessed by an ordinary, average or normal boy of 15 as the standard of self-control with which the conduct of the accused is to be compared?

   It may be conceded that in strict logic there is a transition between treating age as a characteristic that may be taken into account in assessing the gravity of the provocation addressed to the accused and treating it as a characteristic to be taken into account in determining what is the degree of self-control to be expected of the ordinary person with whom the accused's conduct is to be compared.  But to require old heads on young shoulders is inconsistent with the law's compassion of human infirmity to which Sir Michael Foster ascribed the doctrine of provocation more than two centuries ago.  The distinction as to the purpose for which it is legitimate to take the age of the accused into account involves considerations of too great nicety to warrant a place in deciding a matter of opinion, which is no longer one to be decided by a judge trained in logical reasoning but by a jury drawing on their experience of how ordinary human beings behave in real life.

   There is no direct authority prior to the Act that states expressly that the age of the accused could not be taken into account in determining the standard of self-control for the purposes of the reasonable man test, unless this is implicit in the reasoning of Lord Simonds LC in Bedder .  The Court of Appeal distinguished the instant case from that of Bedder on the ground that what it was there said must be ignored was an unusual characteristic that distinguished the accused from ordinary normal persons, whereas nothing could be more ordinary or normal than to be aged 15.  The reasoning in Bedder would, I think, permit of this distinction between normal and abnormal characteristics, which may affect the powers of self-control of the accused; but for reasons that I have already mentioned the proposition stated in Bedder requires qualification as a consequence of changes in the law affected by the 1957 Act.  To try to salve what can remain of it without conflict with the Act could in my view only lead to unnecessary and unsatisfactory complexity in a question which has now become a question for the jury alone.  In my view Bedder , like Mancini and Holmes , ought no longer to be treated as an authority on the law of provocation.

   In my opinion a proper direction to a jury on the question left to their exclusive determination by s 3 of the 1957 Act would be on the following lines. 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 would react to the provocation as the accused did.

   I accordingly agree with the Court of Appeal that the judge ought not to have instructed the jury to pay no account to the age of the accused even though they themselves might be of opinion that the degree of self-control to be expected in a boy of the age was less than in an adult.  So to direct them was to impose a fetter on the right and duty of the jury which the 1957 Act accords to them to act on their own opinion on the matter.

   I would dismiss this appeal.

   LORD MORRIS OF BORTH-Y-GEST.  My Lords, for many years past in cases where murder has been charged, it has been recognised by courts that there can be circumstances in which the accused person was so provoked that this unlawful act was held to amount to manslaughter rather than to murder.  Due and sensibly regard to human nature and to human frailty and infirmity was being paid.  In R v Hayward this result was said to be 'in compassion to human infirmity'.  But courts were careful to ensure that a plea of provocation should involve more than some easy explanation as to how a death had been caused.  What was involved was that the accused had acted in 'heat of blood' or in a 'transport of passion' or in other words had lost his self-control and that this was the result of the provocation.  But in addition to this and by way of limitation, courts introduced certain tests of reasonableness.  Was it but natural for even a reasonable man to have been as much aroused as was the accused?  Furthermore, might even a reasonable man have been induced in the violence of passion to do what the accused did?

   These lines of approach were at different times expressed in different ways. In R v Welsh Keating J, in his summing-up, used the following words:

   'The question, therefore, is -- first, whether there is evidence of any such provocation as could reduce the crime from murder to manslaughter; and, if there be any such evidence, then it is for the jury whether it was such that they can attribute the act to the violence of passion naturally arising therefrom, and likely to be aroused thereby in the breast of a reasonable man...  The law is, that there must exist such an amount of provocation as would be excited by the circumstances in the mind of a reasonable man, and so as to lead the jury to ascribe the act to the influence of that passion...  The law contemplates the case of a reasonable man, and requires that the provocation shall be such at that such man might naturally be induced, in the anger of the moment, to commit the act.'

   When Keating J said that 'The law contemplates the case of a reasonable man' was he doing more than saying that the jury had to consider whether the accused had reasonably been aroused and had reasonably been subject to a violence of passion?  Could a reasonable man in the position of the accused have been 'excited by the circumstances'?  Could such a person have done what the accused did?  Those were all questions for the jury.

   At a much later date, in Holmes v Director of Public Prosecutions , Viscount Simon said:

   'If, on the other hand, the case is one in which the view might fairly be taken (a) that a reasonable person, in consequence of the provocation received, might be so rendered subject to passion or loss of control as to be led to use the violence with fatal results, and (b) that the accused was in fact acting under the stress of such provocation, then it is for the jury to determine whether on its view of the facts manslaughter or murder is the appropriate verdict.'

   Before the time when Bedder v Director of Public Prosecutions came under consideration, the courts seemed to have created the conception of 'the reasonable man' as a mythical person seemingly not only detached from but also rather remote from the accused person and having certain attributes as laid down by the court as the courts directed juries to accept.

   Who then or what then was the 'reasonable man'?  If a reasonable man is a man who normally acts reasonably, it becomes important to consider the mind of the accused person when considering his reactions to some provocation.  To consider the mind of some different person, and to consider what his reactions would have been if comparably provoked, could involve an unreal test.  In the argument in Bedder's case the question was raised as to the position of a dwarf.  If at the date of that case things said could have amounted to provocation and if grossly offensive things in relation to his stature had been said to a dwarf, had the jury to consider not whether the dwarf only acted as a reasonable dwarf might have acted in being subject to passion and in doing what he did, or must the jury consider what would have been the reactions of a man of normal physique if the things said had been said to him?

   These questions in regard to the reasonable man must now be reviewed in the light of the provisions of the 1957 Act.  Those contained in s 2 in reference to persons suffering from diminished responsibility may merely be noted in passing. Those contained in s 3 are of supreme importance.  That section provides as follows:

   'Where on a charge of murder there is evidence on which the jury can find that the person charged was provoked (whether by things done or by things said or by both together) to lose his self-control, the question whether the provocation was enough to make a reasonable man do as he did shall be left to be determined by the jury; and in determining that question the jury shall take into account everything both done and said according to the effect which, in their opinion, it would have on a reasonable man.'
 One big change enacted was that things said could, either alone or in conjunction with things done, constitute provocation.  It will first be for the court to decide whether, on a charge of murder, there is evidence on which a jury can find that the person charged was provoked to lose his self-control; thereafter, as it seems to me, all questions are for the jury.  It will be for the jury to say whether they think that whatever was or may have been the provocation, such provocation was in their view enough to make a reasonable man do as the accused did.  The jury must take into account everything both done and said according to the effect which they think there would have been on a reasonable man.  Who then or what then is the 'reasonable man who is referred to in the section?  It seems to me that the courts are no longer entitled to tell juries that a reasonable man has certain stated and defined features.  It is for the jury to consider all that the accused did; it is for them to say whether the provocation was enough to make 'a reasonable man' do as the accused did.  The jury must take into account 'everything both done and said'.  What do they think would have been the effect on a reasonable man?  They must bring their 'collective good sense' to bear.  As Lord Goddard CJ said in R v McCarthy :

   'No court has ever given, nor do we think ever can give, a definition of what constitutes a reasonable or average man.  That must be left to the collective good sense of the jury, and what, no doubt, would govern their opinion would be the nature of the retaliation used by the provoked person.'
 So in relation to the facts in Bedder's case apart from the painful physical kick, a jury would now have to consider the effect of the things said on a reasonable man.  If an impotent man was taunted about his impotence the jury would not today be told that an impotent man could not be a reasonable man as contemplated by the law.  The jury would be entitled to decide that the accused man acted as 'a reasonable man' in being provoked as he was and in doing 'as he did'.

   It seems to me that as a result of the changes effected by s 3 of the 1957 Act a jury is full entitled to consider whether an accused person, placed as he was, only acted as even a reasonable man might have acted if he had been in the accused's situation.  There may be no practical difference between, on the one hand, taking a notional independent reasonable man, but a man having the attributes of the accused and subject to all the events which surrounded the accused, and then considering whether what the accused did was only what such a person would or might have done, and, on the other hand, taking the accused himself with all his attributes and subject to all the events and then asking whether there was provocation to such a degree as would or might make a reasonable man do what he (the accused) in fact did.

   In my view it would now be unreal to tell the jury that the notional 'reasonable man' is someone without the characteristics of the accused: it would be to intrude into their province.  A few examples may be given.  If the accused is of particular colour or particular ethnic origin and things are said which to him are grossly insulting it would be utterly unreal if the jury had to consider whether the words would have provoked a man of different colour or ethnic origin, or to consider how such a man would have acted or reacted.  The question would be whether the accused if he was provoked only reacted as even any reasonable man in his situation would or might have reacted.  If the accused was ordinarily and usually a very unreasonable person, the view that on a particular occasion he acted just as a reasonable person would or might have acted would not be impossible of acceptance.

   It is not disputed that the 'reasonable man' in s 3 of the 1957 Act could denote a reasonable person and so a reasonable woman.  If words of grievous insult were addressed to a woman, words perhaps reflecting on her chastity or way of life, a consideration of the way in which she reacted would have to take account of how other woman being reasonable women would or might in like circumstances have reacted.  Would or might she, if she had been a reasonable woman, have done what she did?

   In the instant case the considerations to which I have been referring have application to a question of age.  The accused was a young man.  Sometimes in the summingup he was called a boy or a lad.  He was at the time of the events described at the trial under 16 years of age: he was accountable in law for the charge preferred against him.  More generally in the summing-up he was referred to as a young man; that would appear to me to have been appropriate.  In his summing-up, however, the learned judge in referring to a reasonable man seemed to emphasise to the jury that the reasonable man with whom they must compare the accused could not be a young man of the age of the accused but had to be someone older and indeed had to be someone of full age and maturity.  In my view that was not correct.  The jury had to consider whether a young man of about the same age as the accused but placed in the same situation as that which befell the accused could, had he been a reasonable young man, have reacted as did the accused and could have done what the accused did.  For the reasons which I have outlined the question so to be considered by the jury would be whether they considered that the accused, placed as he was, and having regard to all the things that they find were said, and all the things that they find were done, only acted as a reasonable young man might have acted, so that, in compassion, and having regard to human frailty, he could to some extent be excused even though he had caused death.

   I consider that the Court of Appeal came to the correct conclusion and agreeing with what my noble and learned friend, Lord Diplock, has said as to the direction to a jury, I would dismiss the appeal.

   LORD SIMON OF GLAISDALE.  My Lords, the accused, the respondent to this appeal, was indicted for murder.  He pleaded guilty of manslaughter but not guilty of murder.  His defence was provocation.  He was found guilty of murder but the verdict was quashed on appeal and a verdict of manslaughter was substituted.  The Crown now appeals to your Lordships' House.

   At the time of the offence the accused was 15 years of age.  It was the common assumption of his counsel, of the trial judge, Boreham J, and of the Court of Appeal that the jury might have thought that the age of the accused could have been a factor affecting his self-control, in other words, that the jury might have held that a boy of 15 was more liable to lose his self-control than a man of full age.  It was for this reason that Boreham J, no doubt feeling constrained to do so by Bedder v Director of Public Prosecutions , directed the jury that, to justify a verdict of manslaughter, the provocation must be sufficient to make a reasonable man (expressly, not a reasonable boy or lad), in like circumstances to those of the accused at the time of the homicide, act as the accused did.  And it was for this reason that the Court of Appeal, distinguishing Bedder , allowed the appeal and submitted a verdict of manslaughter.  Your Lordships must, I think, proceed on the same assumption for the purposes of this appeal.

   In Bedder , the defendant, who was sexually impotent, had in vain attempted to have intercourse with a prostitute.  The woman jeered at him for his impotence; when he tried to hold her she slapped his face and punched him in the stomach, and as he pushed her back she kicked him in the private parts.  He took a knife from his pocket and struck her two blows with it, which killed her.  It was argued on his behalf that the 'reasonable man' (whom a long line of previous authorities since 1859 had established as the standard for measuring the self-control required where a defence of provocation was in question) should be invested with the physical qualities of the defendant (in that case, impotence), and that the question should be asked, what would be the reaction of an impotent reasonable man in the circumstances?  But the judge directed the jury in these terms :

   'The reasonable person, the ordinary person, is the person you must consider when you are considering the effect which any acts, any conduct, any words, might have to justify the steps which are taken in response thereto, so that an unusually excitable or pugnacious individual, or a drunken one or a man who is sexually impotent is not entitled to rely on provocation which would not have led an ordinary person to have acted in the way which was in fact carried out.'
 This direction was upheld both in the Court of Criminal Appeal and in your Lordships House.

   It is, I think, important to note what was the point of law certified by the Attorney-General for the consideration of this House, because it defines the scope of the decision.  The crucial passage is as follows :

   'Where provocation is set up as the defence to a charge of murder, to what extent (if at all) it is relevant, in considering the effect on a reasonable man of the alleged provocation, that the accused suffers from a physical infirmity or disability likely to render a person similarly affected more susceptible to the provocation alleged than a person not so affected...'
 Lord Simonds LC , with whose speech the other members of the House agreed, gave three main reasons for dismissing the appeal.  (1):

   'It would be plainly illogical not to recognise an unusually excitable or pugnacious temperament in the accused as a matter to be taken into account but yet to recognise for that purpose some unusual physical characteristics, be it impotence or another.'
 (Lord Simonds LC's reference to 'unusually excitable or pugnacious' was a direct citation from the speech of Viscount Simon LC, with whom the rest of the House concurred, in Mancini v Director of Public Prosecutions , where, approving R v Lesbini , he said: '... an unusally excitable or pugnacious individual is not entitled to rely on provocation which would not have led an ordinary person to act as he did.') (2):

   'Moreover, the proposed distinction appears to me to ignore the fundamental fact that the temper of a man which leads him to react in such and such a way to provocation, is, or may be, itself conditioned by some physical defect.  It is too subtle a refinement for my mind, or I think for that of a jury to grasp that the temper may be ignored but the physical defect taken into account.'
 (3) To invest the hypothetical reasonable man with the peculiar characteristics of the accused would make nonsense of the test established by authority.

   'If the reasonable man is then deprived in whole or in part of his reason, or the normal man endowed with abnormal characteristics, the test ceases to have any value.'

 When Bedder was decided your Lordships' House was bound by the rule of precedent.  Bedder followed preceding authorities in your Lordships' House and the speech of Lord Simonds LC is closely reasoned in the light of those authorities.  (It is presumably in consequence of this that some critics of the decision would wish to go back beyond 1859 and dispense with the 'reasonable man' test altogether.) Subsequent discussion of Bedder has, however, shown that some of its implications constitute affronts to common sense and any sense of justice.  By way of example only, a blow on the face might be quite insufficient to make an ordinary reasonable man lose his self-control, whereas if he has a severe abscess in his cheek the situation might be very different, but, according to Bedder , the abscess would have to be disregarded.  And it is accepted that the phrase 'reasonable man' really means 'reasonable person', so as to extend to 'reasonable woman' (see, specifically, Holmes v Director of Public Prosecutions ).  So, although this has never yet been a subject of decision, a jury could arguably, consistent with Bedder and its precedent authorities, take the sex of the accused into account in assessing what might reasonably cause her to lose her self-control.  (A 'reasonable woman' with her sex climinated is altogether too abstract a notion for my comprehension or, I am confident, for that of any jury.  In any case, it hardly makes sense to say that an impotent man must be notionally endowed with virility before he ranks within the law of provocation as a reasonable man, yet that a normal woman must be notionally stripped of her femininity before she qualifies as a reasonable woman.) If so, this is already some qualification on the 'reasonable person' as a pure abstraction devoid of any personal characteristics, even if such a concept were of any value to the law.  This qualification might be crucial: take the insult 'whore' addressed respectively to a reasonable man and a reasonable woman.  Nevertheless, as counsel for the appellant sternly and cogently maintained, Bedder would preclude the jury from considering that the accused was, say, pregnant (R v Annie Smith), or presumably undergoing menstruation or menopause.

   Such refinements, anomalies and affronts to common sense invite courts to distinguish an authority.  In the instant case the Court of Appeal distinguished Bedder on the ground that age is a universal quality not a personal idiosyncrasy.  It is certainly not a 'physical infirmity or disability'.  This distinction is, further, arguably justified by the implications of the 'reasonable woman' as a standard.  It could be said that the law, in distinguishing from personal idiosyncrasy something universal like age, was doing no more than it had already done in distinguishing implicity something universal like sex.

   Nevertheless, the distinction drawn by the Court of Appeal leads to great difficulties.  If youth is to be considered (and, presumably, advanced years too), what about immaturity in a person of full years or premature senility? These would seem to fall on the other, on the Bedder side, of the line.  One calls to mind what Lord Reid said in Jones v Secretary of State for Social Services, Hudson v Secretary of State for Social Services : 'It is notorious that where an existing decision is disapproved but cannot be overruled courts tend to distinguished it on inadequate grounds.' The fine distinctions and the anomalies inherent in distinguishing Bedder are such as, in judgment, to makes it incumbent to face the issue whether Bedder should be followed or is so inconvenient an authority that it should be regarded as no longer reprepresenting the law.  The latter course involves considerable retracing of judicial steps.  In order to see where it would be necessary to go, it is undesirable to investigate the reasons for the various rules which have been evolved in the law of provocation.

   The original reasons in this branch of the law were largely reasons of the heart and of common sense, not the reasons of pure juristic logic.  The potentiality of provocation to reduce murder to manslaughter was, as Tindal CJ said in R v Hayward , 'in compassion to human infirmity'.  But justice and common sense then demanded some limitation: it would be unjust that the drunk man or one exceptionally pugnacious or bad-tempered or over-sensitive should be able to claim that these matters rendered him peculiarly susceptible to the provocation offered, where the sober and even-tempered man would hang for his homicide.  Hence, I think, the development of the concept of the reaction of a reasonable man to the provocation offered, even though it may have originally come into this branch of the law by way of testing the credibility of the claim of the accused (who could not at that time himself give evidence) that he had been so deprived of his self-control as to be incapable of forming the relevant intent.  But it is one thing to invoke the reasonable man for the standard of self-control which the law requires; it is quite another to substitute some hypothetical being from whom all mental and physical attributes (except perhaps sex) have been abstracted.

   Nevertheless, although your Lordships are no longer bound to follow a previous decision of your Lordships' House, and are free to retrace steps if it appears that the following of authority has led into a false position, and although the inconveniences, anomalies and injustices implicit in the Bedder decision are now apparent after the lapse of a quarter of a century, I am most reluctant to urge your Lordships to overrule Bedder .  This partly for the reasons given by Lord Reid in Knuller (Publising, Printers and Promotions) Ltd v Director of Public Prosecutions .  But these are reinforced in the instant case.  The issue here involves important questions of public safety; and Parliament as a whole constitutes a more suitable matrix for the framing of legal rules which concern such issues.  Moreover, the Criminal Law Revision Committee put out a working paper which covers the issue involved in this appeal.  The paper invited comments on provisional proposals for amendment of the law, and no doubt the committee will shortly be producing its final report. I feel great reluctance in taking any step which might pre-empt the consequent decision.

   But there is one factor here which makes the instant situation a peculiar one.  Section 3 of the Homicide Act 1957 has supervened on Bedder and makes it incumbent to determine whether Bedder has thereby been weakened as an authority, particularly in view of the unsatisfactory consequences of merely distinguishing Bedder .  Section 3 reads as follows:

   'Where on a charge of murder there is evidence on which the jury can find that the person charged was provoked (whether by things done or by things said or by both together) to lose his self-control, the question whether the provocation was enough to make a reasonable man do as he did shall be left to be determined by the jury; and in determining that question the jury shall take into account everything both done and said according to the effect which, in their opinion, it would have on a reasonable man.'
 The main changes effected by this section were first, to provide that words alone could constitute provocation in law and secondly, to make the issue one for the jury alone.  I would also draw particular attention to the words, 'the jury shall take into account everything... according to the effect which, in their opinion, it would have on a reasonable man'.

   The provision that words alone can constitute provocation accentuates the anomalies, inconveniences and injustices liable to follow from the Bedder decision.  The effect of an insult will often depend entirely on a characteristic of a person to whom the insult is directed.  'Dirty nigger' would probably mean little if said to a white man or even if said by one coloured man to another, but is obviously more insulting when said a white man to a coloured man.  Similarly, such an expression as "Your character is as crooked as your back' would have a different connotation to a hunchback on the one hand and to a man with a back like a ramrod on the other.  (I would, however, wish to emphasise that I do not suggest that a jury would necessarily, or even probably, consider such insults as I have cited in this speech as in themselves excusing homicidal violence, any more than it must be assumed that I think it likely that a jury would hold that a mid or late teenager was to be credited with any exceptional incapacity for self-control as to excuse homicidal violence.) But if the jury cannot take into account the characterstic which particularly points the insult, I cannot see trhat they are taking 'into account everything... according to the effect... it would have on a reasonable man'.  In my judgment the reference to 'a reasonable man' at the end of the section means 'a man of ordinary self-control'.  If this is so the meaning satisfies what I have ventured to suggest as the reasons for importing into this branch of the law the concept of the reasonable man, namely to avoid the injustice of a man being entitled to rely on his exceptional excitablility (whether idiosyncratic or by cultural environment or ethnic origin) or pugnacity or ill-temper or on his drunkenness (I do not purport to be exhausitive in this enumeration).

   There is another respect in which the 1957 Act may have affected the rigour of the Bedder doctrine and thus undermined its authority.  There have been differences of opinion lately in your Lordship's House on how far one may have forensic recourse to a public or parliamentary report.  I cite the working paper to which I have referred of the Criminal Law Revision Committee (as I would an authoritative textbood) as an expression of view of the law, formed by a body of criminal lawyers of outstanding eminence and wide-ranging experience:

   'In this country the law on this matter [provocation] has been indirectly affected by the introduction of the defence of diminished responsibility.  It is now possible for a defendant to set up a combined defence of provocation and diminished responsibility, the practical effect being that the jury may return a verdict of manslaughter if they take the view that the defendant suffered from an abnormality of mind and was provoked.  In practice this may mean that a conviction of murder will be ruled out although the provocation was not such as would have moved a person of normal mentality to kill.'

   In the exceptional circumstances whereby the reasoning of a decision of your Lordships' House, and that of the authorities on which it was founded, has been undermined by a subsequent Act of Parliament (even though the decision has not been clearly and expressly abrogated), I think that your Lordships are justified in saying that Bedder should no longer be followed.  I think that the law as it now stands in this country is substantially the same as that enacted in the New Zealand Crimes Act 1961, s 169(2), as explained by the Court of Appeal of New Zealand in R v McGregor .

   I think that the standard of self-control which the law requires before provocation is held to reduce murder to manslaughter is still that of the reasonable person (hence his invocation in s 3 of the 1957 Act), but that, in determining whether a person of reasonable self-control would lose it in the circumstances, the entire factual situation, which includes the characteristics of the accused, must be considered.

   There is only one other matter which I would desire to add.  It was suggested on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions that if what his counsel called the 'completely objective test' as established by Bedder were modified, so that it was open to the jury to consider such mental or physical characteristics of the defendant as might affect his self-control in the relevant situation, the jury might require evidence as to how a person of reasonable self-control would be likely to react in such circumstances, or at least that it would be open to either side to call such evidence.  In other words, evidence would be required, or alternatively be admissible, to show, for example, how a pregnant woman or a 15-year-old boy or a hunchback would. exercising reasonable self-control, react in the circumstances.  I cannot agree.  Evidence of the pregnancy or the age or the malformation would be admissible.  But whether the defendant exercised reasonable self-control in the totality of the circumstances (which would include the pregnancy or the immaturity or the malformation) would be entirely a matter for consideration by the jury without further evidence.  The jury would, as ever, use their collective common sense to determine whether the provocation was sufficient to make a person of reasonable self-control in the totality of the circumstances (including personal characteristics) act as the defendant did. I certainly to not think this be beyond the capacity of a jury.  I have heard nothing to suggest that juries in New Zealand find the task beyond them.

   My Lords, for the foregoing reasons I would dismiss the appeal.