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Smith, Hogan and Ormerod's Essentials of Criminal Law

Smith, Hogan and Ormerod's Essentials of Criminal Law (5th edn)

John Child and David Ormerod
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date: 21 July 2024

p. 1545. Murderlocked

p. 1545. Murderlocked

  • David OrmerodDavid OrmerodProfessor of Criminal Justice, University College London Deputy High Court Judge Barrister, Bencher of Middle Temple
  •  and John ChildJohn ChildProfessor of Criminal Law, Birmingham Law School Co-Director of the Birmingham Centre for Crime, Justice and Policing Co-Director of the Criminal Law Reform Now Network


This chapter focuses on the offence of murder within the context of criminal law, with particular emphasis on its problematic and controversial nature. It first considers the definition of murder in terms of actus reus and mens rea. It then discusses the defences to murder, including general defences, specific complete defences, and partial defences (e.g. loss of self-control, diminished responsibility, and suicide pact). It also outlines potential options for legal reform concerning the mandatory life sentence and the mens rea of murder, and concludes by presenting a structure for applying the actus reus and mens rea for murder to problem facts. Relevant cases are highlighted throughout the chapter, and there are also boxes that highlight common pitfalls to avoid and other areas of confusion for those new to the law.

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