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.