Provocation is a partial defence to a charge of murder. It reduces murder to manslaughter if the jury accepts that actions of the victim would have caused a ‘reasonable person’ to lose self-control.
The problem is that it is clearly being abused in some circumstances, like the Weatherston trial, to drag the victim’s name through the mud, often with threadbare or no evidence, on the outside hope it might result in a lighter sentence. In light of the, frankly, outrageous behaviour of Weatherston’s defence team it looks like a political consensus is emerging around getting rid of provocation.
Would that end the practice of putting the victim on trial? I don’t think so. There will still be mileage for the defence in trying to make the victim look bad, even if the charge can’t be reduced to manslaughter a lesser sentence might still result if picture of blameworthiness the can be blurred.
I think the media must accept some responsibility for encouraging the defence to indulge in these attacks on the victim. While the media continues to cover trials in ever greater and more gory detail, the lawyers can go home and see those allegations repeated on the TV and hope to swing public opinion behind the accused, which might just influence the jury.
The media has been a pig wallowing in the mud thrown by defence teams using provocation. It’s disgusting, it debases justice, and it encourages defence teams to attack the victim on even the most spurious and insulting grounds. It’s got to stop.