Murder and sexual infidelity

Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, said juries should be allowed to consider the fact a victim had been unfaithful as a possible provocation – in defiance of a new law that banned it as an excuse.

How did we end up with a law that said that such infidelity could not be used as a (partial) defence? Which part of Labour thought that up?

They dismissed two but upheld the appeal by Jon-Jacques Clinton, who was jailed for life, with a minimum of 26 years, after killing his wife, Dawn, at their home in Bracknell, Berkshire.

The couple, who had two children – now aged 13 and 12 – had separated two weeks before the 2010 killing.

The day before her death Mrs Clinton, a dinner lady, told her husband she was having an affair with Tony Montgomery, who she had met online.

Clinton later discovered had regularly posted lurid comments about sex on the internet, including one on the day of their daughter’s birthday.

When he confronted her about the infidelity, Mrs Clinton taunted him saying “it should have been like that every day of the week” and that she had slept with five men and gave graphic details.

She also “sniggered” after discovering he had been looking at suicide websites, adding “it would have been easier if you had, for all of us”.

Clinton, a building site manager, was also under pressure at work and was worried how to cope with two children without her after a 17-year relationship.

He attacked her with a lump of wood and strangled her.

The point about murder is that you have to plan to kill someone. And when trying to work out whether someone was planning to do so it is necessary to look at all of the events that led up to the event.

Note that no one at all is suggesting that we have a Latin style creme passionelle*,  where having been cuckolded there is a right to hunt down and kill the participants in the two backed beast. Only that there is a difference between planning to kill someone and killing someone after provocation.

Also note that the man is not now to be set free, this is not a \”not guilty\” verdict**. It\’s been sent back for retrial. A jury will now decide whether that provocation is indeed a defence to a charge of murder. They being the right people and the right place to make such a decision.

Finally, note what\’s really interesting about the case. This isn\’t, as I\’m sure some will see it, the judges over ruling the lawmakers. This is the judges saying that the law is a lot more complicated than the lawmakers seem to realise. There are conflicts and trade offs throughout the system. The various needs to nail the guilty, spare the innocent, provide for fair trials to distinguish between the two and so on. And that complex web isn\’t quite as amenable to the will of Parliament as some lawmakers seem to think. The general rules about, as in this case, fair trials, the defences that can be mounted, count more than a specific line item in a piece of legislation.

It is much more important that it is possible to mount a defence for a jury to decide upon than it is that a majority of 635 people have voted to not allow a specific line of defence.

This is, writ small, one of the larger problems of our time. Vide Vodafone: Parliament\’s direct will in the matter may well be that the CFC rules hold. But having gifted jurisdiction to the EU courts on such matters that doesn\’t really matter any more. Abolishing the Lord Chancellor and then having to reinstate him in a different guise as so much of the basic law demands that we have someone named as the Lord Chancellor. Doesn\’t have to be Speaker of the Lords, but there does have to be a Lord Chancellor.

In short, the world is more complex than the pygmies who rule us understand it is.


* As Corporal Nobby Nobbs puts it.

** Well, I suppose you could view it that way. Not guilty as tried and convicted so far as the original judge ruled out that provocation by sexual infidelity defence. But you know what I mean.

13 thoughts on “Murder and sexual infidelity”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    It is hard to believe anyone could be so stupid as to deprive men of this defence. Anyone who knows anything about love knows how close people can be to violence. In fact doesn’t Chris Rock have a sketch on this?

    It makes you think that either some Ministers have no experience of life or humanity at all or the fringe nutters are right and feminists really are motivated by an irrational hatred of all men. Maybe even both.

  2. I still find it difficult to distinguish between the autocratic tendency of the socialist mind and the autocratic tendency of the hard line right. They both claim what is good for the rest of us is, in fact, what suits them. English (I know nothing of Scots law) criminal law has evolved over hundreds of years in a way that, on the whole, mirrors societies understanding of ‘fairness’. Interventions and directives by Gumment here, let alone from a foreign intervention obsessed NGO, as to what can and can’t be considered by a court simply makes the Nation focus on the ‘unfairness’ of life. It engenders a strong wish to tell those guilty to BOG OFF.

  3. I always assumed things like provocation affected the sentencing, not the guilty/not guilty verdict. There is no doubt in this case that the chap killed his wife, so why the retrial? Is there not scope to say “Yeah, I did it, but here’s why…” and the sentencing takes that into account?

  4. It’s basic Feminist principle, as has increasingly distorted the legal system for the past century. Basically, if a woman kills a man, he must have been beastly so it’s his fault, whereas if a man kills a woman, he’s beastly and it’s his fault. This is all encapsulated in Mr Cherie Blair’s desire for a society of “rights and responsibilities”. Women have rights, men have responsibilities.

    (See also: women have a right to work, men have a responsibility to work, etc etc)


    or the fringe nutters are right and feminists really are motivated by an irrational hatred of all men.

    Hatred is a sticky word. You can hate Downton Abbey, tomatoes or cab drivers, but none of those are the “hate” we use in terms like “hate speech”. It’s better to say that Feminist simply think they’re much, much better than men, who are a kind of shambling, dangerous untermensch who, like video game characters, do not have an inner life or psychology as such but merely exhibit a suite of programmed behaviours which cause them to constantly attack the player.

    It comes from the Second Wave Puritan revival in the C19, in which women were placed on a superior moral pedestal. Feminists are basically Gibson Girls with bizarre theories developed to justify that superior social position.

  5. Answer to Tim Newman : Provocation does affect the verdict, not just the sentencing – if provocation is admitted, the jury can return a verdict of manslaughter rather than murder.

  6. Tim Newman (#3), it’s murder vs manslaughter.

    Murder requires some sort of ‘intent’ (as defined, so not really its natural meaning, and not exactly the “planning” that Timmy suggests).

    If provocation is sufficiently great (and that’s a tough hurdle), it can diminish responsibility and therefore negate ‘intent’.

    Or something like that; it’s over 20 years since my criminal law lectures.

  7. The partial defence of provocation (reducing murder to manslaughter) was abolished a couple of years ago, and replaced by a defence of “loss of control” if there was a “qualifying trigger” for the killing, which would have to be either fear of serious violence or “circumstances of an extremely grave character” which gave the defendant “a justifiable sense of being seriously wronged”. The law specifically states that “the fact that a thing done or said constituted sexual infidelity is to be disregarded” in establishing a qualifying trigger.

    The Judge in this particular case did not rule that sexual infidelity can after all be a qualifying trigger – he can’t override an Act of Parliament. He ruled that the defence should be allowed to put its case as a whole, and the Jury should then decide whether sufficient other triggers exist.

    Incidentally, diminished responsibility is a different partial defence: roughly it says that you did it because you’re a bit bonkers.

  8. @monoi,

    Failed, I’m afraid. Why don’t you write a complaint next time Tim uses “pendant” when it is clear from the context he meant to use “pedant”. This time, he even gave you a footnote to explain the spelling.

  9. If you knew any of the true details of this case you wouldn’t accept any sort of defence, it is much more horrid than just hitting & strangling someone. Many of the “triggers” claimed by the accused cannot be verified as they were simply not true, multiple lovers etc, and we only have one side of a story that taunting took place please also bear in mind there was a guilty verdict returned for a crime of Arson which resulted in the victim being lured to the scene of the murder

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