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Why R v Adebolajo and Adebowale is important?

R v Adebolajo and Adebowale establishes that the Court will look at the status of the victim when asking whether the killing occurred under the Queen’s peace, not the beliefs of the killer(s). Therefore, the Court asks whether the victim was under the Queen’s Peace at the time of the killing.

Facts

The defendants had followed the victim, Fusilier Lee Rigby, who was recognisable as a member of the British Armed Forces as a result of his ‘Help for Heroes’ t-shirt and Army-issue rucksack. When the victim crossed the road in front of the defendants, they accelerated the car and ran the victim down. Whilst the victim was unconscious, the defendants exited the vehicle and attacked the victim with knives until his death.

Conviction at Issue

The two defendants had been found guilty of murder and were seeking leave to appeal against this verdict.

One of the defendants argued that he honestly believed that he was a soldier of Islam engaged in a war against the British government. In these circumstances, a British soldier was their only target. The defendant argued that killings committed whilst fighting a war do not constitute murder as they do not fall within the Queen’s Peace.

Issue facing the Court

  1. Whether the onus was on The Crown to prove that the defendant was under the Queen’s Peace and not at war with the State.
  2. Whether the defendant’s belief that he was at war was sufficient to argue they were not within the Queen’s Peace.

Outcome

This limb of the defendant’s appeal was dismissed. The Court held it was the victim’s state of mind which determines whether the killing took place under the Queen’s Peace, not the killer’s state of mind.

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, CJ:

“Although the Queen’s Peace may play some part still in the elements that have to be proved for murder as regards the status of the victim (and it is not necessary to examine or define the ambit of that), it can only go to the status of the victim; it has nothing whatsoever to do with the status of the killer.”

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