November 10, 2013

Director of Public Prosecutions v. Camplin - 2 All E.R. 168 (1978) - House of Lords

FACTS: The defendant is 15 yrs. old and killed the victim w/ a heavy pan.  the defendant testified that the victim had bungered him and laughed at him which is when he lost his self-control.

The defense counsel wanted the jury to consider if the action was reasonable for a boy of that age but the judge told the jury not to consider the age but only to consider if it was reasonable for a man in like circumstances to act.  Jury found him guilty of murder.  The Court of Appeal substituted the conviction w/ manslaughter.  The public prosecutor appeals to the House of Lords.

ISSUE: Is the reasonable man's standard supposed to be applied to consider a standard based on the norm expected form a defendant of the same age and background?


The gravity of the provocation depends on the characteristics of the person the provocation was directed at.  The fact that the defendant was only 15 at the time is relevant.  To require "old heads on young shoulders is inconsistent w/ the laww's compassion of human infirmity.  The judge should have instructed the jury that the reasonable man referred to a hypothetical of a person of the same sex and age as the defendant.  The fact that words alone must be taken into account with the defendant's characteristics illustrates that the effect of the insult often depends entirely on whom the insult is directed.