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Why R v Inglis is important

In R v Inglis, the Court confirmed that a mercy killing is not a defence to murder. This upheld the Court’s earlier judgement in R v Cox.

Facts

As a result of serious head injuries, the defendant’s son was in a vegetative state. The doctors advised that he might recover and be able to live independently. The defendant did not believe that this opinion was correct – she thought her son was in pain and believed it was in his best interests for her to end his suffering. The defendant therefore attempted twice to kill the victim by injecting him with heroin and the second attempt was successful.

Conviction at Issue

The defendant was convicted of the victim’s murder. She appealed, arguing that because her motives were benevolent (it was a mercy killing) she lacked the necessary mens rea for murder.

Issue facing the Court

Whether the defendant’s benevolent motives for killing the victim meant she did not possess the requisite mens rea for murder.

Outcome

The defendant’s appeal was dismissed and her conviction for murder was upheld.

The Court of Appeal held that so long as the defendant intended to kill her son or cause him grievous bodily harm, then the conviction for murder was correct. The defendant’s motivations whether malevolent or benevolent are irrelevant.

The Lord Chief Justice:

we must underline that the law of murder does not distinguish between murder committed for malevolent reasons and murder motivated by familial love. Subject to well established partial defences, like provocation or diminished responsibility, mercy killing is murder.

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