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Diminished Responsibility Appeal Rejected

HMA v Nicholas Rodgers

Mr Rodgers, who was found guilty of the murder of Ms Stuart in August 2016, has had his appeal against conviction rejected. Mr Rodgers is currently serving life imprisonment with a punishment element of 16 years.

The appellant claimed he was suffering from a long “abnormality of mind” at the time of the murder as he had taken a combination on drink and drugs. The appellant also had a history of psychiatric problems. However, the appeal Court did not agree and the appeal was rejected. The appeal was based on the fact that the appellant believed the trial judge had misdirected the jury on diminished responsibility in the charge. The appeal court in the High Court of Justiciary did agree with the appellant’s argument that the trial judge had made an error but that this error did not result in a miscarriage of justice; having regard to all the available evidence. Lord Justice General said when staging the opinion of the court: “Abnormality of mind had to be a substantial cause of the impairment for the plea to be open. It need not be the only cause and the impairment ‘must not be brought on by the voluntary ingestion of drink or drugs’. If, nevertheless, the jury considered that a personality disorder was an operative (ie substantial) cause of an accused’s actions, the plea remained available. “It does not seem to be disputed that the principles of the common law position are still apt when considering the statutory provision. If an accused’s actions at the material time have been substantially impaired by reason of abnormality of mind, then the jury may find diminished responsibility established even if intoxication also played a part.“Much of the judge’s directions in the area were unexceptional.

However, in so far as he directed the jury (as he did) that they had an option to find, as an alternative, either that the mental disorder or the ingestion of alcohol or drugs had led to the impairment, he was in error.’’ Lord Carolway continues: “In this case, the jury had, or rather ought to have had, a straightforward question to answer of whether, discounting the effect of alcohol and/or drugs, the mental disorder was a substantial cause of impairment…Nevertheless, using it in the circumstances prevailing in this case would not have led the jury to misunderstand the meaning of probabilities. It is not a substantially erroneous description.”

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