Brief Fact Summary. Holley (D) killed his partner but argued that the jury should consider his severe chronic alcoholism as a mitigating factor in their determination of whether he acted as a reasonable person in the killing.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Severe chronic alcoholism may be considered as a factor in determining the validity of a reasonable person defense of a criminal defendant.
May severe chronic alcoholism be considered as a factor in determining the validity of a reasonable person defense of a criminal defendant?
Held. (Lord Nichols of Birkenhead, J.) Yes. Severe chronic alcoholism may be considered as a factor in determining the validity of a reasonable person defense of a criminal defendant. For legal purposes a reasonable man is taken to be one who shares much of the defendant’s characteristics, but has self-control to the level expected of an ordinary man in his age group and gender. This analysis is meant to understand the severity of the provocation offered to the defendant. The jury so instructed is meant to apply this principle to the case at issue, in deciding whether the provocation was sufficient to reduce the outrageousness of the criminal conduct. This very much depends on their standards of appropriate human behavior, with due allowance made for both the power of emotions and the make-up of the human nature, and for the effect of self-control in preventing violent outbursts resulting in criminality. The verdict is affirmed.
In this case the Privy Council took a modern view of alcoholism as a mental abnormality, one of many, which could affect the self-control normal for a person in the situation of the defendant. With this in mind the jury needs to look for evidence that the person did not exercise due self-control and is therefore guilty of crime.