Criminal Capacity Case Study

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1 Introduction
In respect of criminal capacity there is an ongoing dispute about the defence of criminal incapacity due to provocation or emotional stress. This debate revolves around the application of logic and legal principles versus that of policy considerations.
2 Criminal capacity
This element of the crime is a purely subjective inquiry into the state of mind of the accused at the time of the commission of the crime and is based on the principle of individual autonomy. The state bears the onus of proving criminal capacity beyond reasonable doubt.
It consists of two legs, namely the conative capacity and the cognitive capacity. The cognitive capacity is the capacity for insight and has to do with an understanding and an ability
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The accused had bludgeoned the deceased to death after an event of severe provocation. The accused had been driving home and had been intoxicated. The deceased provoked the accused by driving closely behind him with his headlights on bright, overtaking him and then slowing down. The deceased had also been intoxicated. At a stop light the accused jumped out of his car and in a fit of rage assaulted the deceased to death. The accused raised a defence of temporary non-pathological criminal incapacity due to severe provocation or emotional stress. He claimed that he had known the wrongfulness of his conduct but that he did not possess the required self-control to refrain from beating the victim. Thus according to the defendant he had the cognitive capacity but lacked conative capacity. The trial court rejected this defence and convicted him of…show more content…
The law clearly states that the test for capacity is purely subjective. The learned judge in Eadie states that “hundreds and thousands of people daily find themselves in similar or worse situations, yet they do not go out clubbing fellow motorists to death when their anger may be provoked”. This objective test complies with policy considerations. It would be unacceptable for a person to kill another and simply raise the defence that they had lost self-control. The problem here is that the defence of provocation easily affords an acquittal which is contrary to the common sense feeling of injustice. The court also emphasises that there is a difference between losing self-control and losing one’s
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