Reconceptualising Sexual Infidelity Provocation: New Anglo-Scottish Reform Proposals

Nicola Wake*, Alan Reed

*Corresponding author for this work

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The Scottish Law Commission has recently confirmed in its Eleventh Programme of Reform, published in May 2023, the continuation of its medium-term project to examine the law of homicide. This includes a review of sexual infidelity killings and provocation as a partial defence to murder, or otherwise. It embraces a critique of whether and, if so, how any necessary proposals for modernising the law in this sensitive and important area should be made. A Discussion Paper has previously been published for examination. Against this backdrop, we analyse whether sexual infidelity ought to be retained in extant Scots law, as one of only two relationally relevant qualifying triggers. In November 2023, the Law Commission in England and Wales announced its forthcoming review of domestic homicide given contemporary understandings of the impact of domestic abuse. We provide novel insights into Anglo-Scottish law to seek to recalibrate the understanding of coercive/controlling behaviour in the contextualisation of sexual infidelity killings. Our review highlights the ways in which allegations of (actual or perceived) sexual infidelity may be symptomatic of coercive control through consideration of recent case law, and via the lens of Monckton-Smith's eight stages to femicide. A risk assessment is utilised to demonstrate the extent to which victims of coercive controlling behaviour have their capacity for action delimited, and how this should inform deliberations in cases where the coercively controlled killer kills in response. A novel and original new template is promulgated for provocation reform predicated de novo on qualifying triggers of domestic abuse and gross breach of trust and with a part-justificatory – part excusatory standardisation. It is suggested that a new nomenclature and typology is required as extant Scottish law on provocation is out of step with contemporary social mores, and the law in England and Wales does not adequately address contextual factors, such as, ethnicity, ‘culture, religion, sexuality, disability, and migrant status’, which impact on a domestic abuse victim's capacity for action. It is further propounded that a social entrapment lens, drawing on initiatives crystallised from New Zealand and Australian academician perspectives, ought to be enacted as part of urgently needed effective remedial legislation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-31
Number of pages31
JournalThe Journal of Criminal Law
Early online date6 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Feb 2024

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