R v Blackman [2017]

R v Blackman [2017] EWCA Crim 190 is a notable criminal law case heard by the Court Martial Appeal Court, addressing the withdrawal of a murder charge and substitution with manslaughter based on uncontested evidence of diminished responsibility. The case involves a soldier convicted of murdering an insurgent and later appealing on the grounds that evidence related to his adjustment disorder was not adequately considered.

A soldier was initially convicted of the murder of an insurgent. Subsequently, he appealed, asserting that his adjustment disorder, a form of mental health condition, was not appropriately considered during the trial. The Court Martial Appeal Court allowed the appeal, leading to the substitution of the murder conviction with manslaughter. The court recognised the persuasive nature of the medical evidence related to the soldier's adjustment disorder.

The court emphasised the rarity of judges exercising the power to withdraw a murder charge from the jury, particularly when the prosecution does not concede to the evidence supporting diminished responsibility. Despite acknowledging the infrequency, the court held that this case warranted the withdrawal. It emphasised that the decision to substitute the conviction for manslaughter hinged on establishing the defence of diminished responsibility on a balance of probabilities.

The court acknowledged the persuasive nature of the medical evidence related to the soldier's adjustment disorder. Even though the case did not fall under the rare instances mentioned, the evidence warranted reconsideration. The ultimate decision was to substitute the conviction with manslaughter, reflecting the court's acceptance that, on a balance of probabilities, the defence for diminished responsibility could be established.

This case highlights the exceptional nature of withdrawing murder charges based on diminished responsibility evidence. The case serves as a reminder that such decisions are rare and require a careful assessment of the evidence, even when the prosecution contests the validity of the defence. The court's focus on the balance of probabilities underscores the nuanced considerations in cases involving mental health conditions and criminal responsibility.
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