Director of Public Prosecutions v. Camplin

House of Lords, 1978.

2 All Eng.Rep. 168, 2 W.L.R. 679.

Dressler, pp. 250-254


Facts: The defendant, a 15-year-old, killed a man who had sodomized him and taunted him.  His attorney wanted the jury to consider his response to this provocation against a reasonable boy his age.  The trial court said he must be judged against a reasonable person.


Issue: Should the defendant’s reaction be judged against a reasonable grown-up or a reasonable boy?


Rule: The text of the Homicide Act refers to the “reasonable man”.


Analysis: The Lords give slightly different rationales, but come to the same result.  Lord Diplock says that a 15-year-old cannot be expected to have the same measure of self-control as an adult, and thus should not be held to the same standard.


Conclusion: The Lords vote to dismiss the appeal.


Notes and Problems


1.     All of them.

2.     It would appear that this ruling specifically excludes drunkenness as a characteristic that may be considered.

3.     If you’re a retributivist, I suppose you would believe it is just that each person’s acts be judged according to their individual capacity for free action and self-control.  However, if you’re a utilitarian, I think you would be loathe to make those distinctions. 


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