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Director of Public Prosecutions v. Camplin

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    Bloomberg Law

    Citation. 2 All Eng.Rep. 168, 2 W.L.R. 679 (England 1978).

    Brief Fact Summary. Defendant Camplin, a fifteen-year-old boy, killed the victim, Mohammed Lal Khan, after Khan allegedly sodomized the boy and taunted him.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The “reasonable person” standard requires that the jury account for the Defendant’s age and sex in considering provocation as a defense.

    Facts. The Defendant killed the victim by splitting his skull with a frying pan. According to the Defendant, he and the victim were alone in Khan’s apartment. Khan sodomized him despite the Defendant’s resistance and laughed at him. The Defendant then fatally attacked the victim.

    Issue. Did the trial court properly instruct the jury on the affirmative defense of provocation?

    Held. No.
    The affirmative defense of provocation is an incomplete defense to murder that negates the intent element, thereby reducing murder to manslaughter. The defense of provocation reduces murder to manslaughter if a reasonable man in like circumstances would have acted as the defendant did.

    The trial court instructed that no consideration of the Defendant’s age should be made. However, the appellate courts rejected this, reasoning that a teenager has different sensibilities and physique than an older person. Hence, a “reasonable man” referred to in the provocation instruction must be an ordinary person of the sex and age of the accused. The trial court’s jury instruction is therefore incorrect.

    Concurrence. The individual characteristics of the Defendant should be considered in referencing the reasonable man standard. For instance, a hunchback is more sensitive to certain insults than other people. This must be considered.

    Discussion. A “reasonable person” is an ordinary person of like sex and age.


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