R v Sohal 2022


S1 was dealing cannabis and the victim in this case (V), another dealer, threatened him for dealing cannabis on his ‘patch’. An ongoing feud commenced within which S1's brothers, S2 and S3, also became involved. Many of the incidents during the feud involved S1 and V arming themselves with knives, with one such incident involving V attacking S1 with a knife and causing two stab wounds to his back and a laceration to his head. 
 
Subsequently, S2 and G bought two large hunting knives from a shop. Later that same day, S1 decided to supply cannabis in a park near to his home and sent S2 and S3 to handle the transaction. However, they were confronted by V and 2 others (CCTV of this incident showed V in possession of  a knife). S2 called G, who was with S1, and S1 grabbed one of the recently purchased knives and headed to the park. After the two groups of men left the park, a confrontation ensued in which S1 fatally stabbed V.
 
S1, S2, S3, G and another male were charged with murder.
 
The defence case was one of self-defence. S1 asserted that he thought V was going to stab him and struck V with a knife before that could happen, which at trial he cited as an act of self-defence, that ultimately resulted in a fatal wound being caused to V.
 
At the close of the trial, it was put to the judge that the defence of loss of control should be left to the jury. The trial judge considered whether there was sufficient evidence to put the defence of loss of self-control before the jury to consider whether the same applied to S. The judge concluded that there was and set out the law applying regarding the defence as per sections 54 and 55 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, identifying three factors to be taken into account when considering the defence in the context of the case, namely:
  • Was there sufficient evidence that S1's actions in fatally stabbing V resulted from his loss of self-control? 
  • If so, was there sufficient evidence that his loss of control was attributable to a qualifying trigger, that being either his fear of serious violence being meted out to him or his brothers by V, or to things said and done that constituted circumstances of an extremely grave character and caused him to have a justifiable sense of being seriously wronged?
  • If so, was there sufficient evidence that a person of the S1's sex and age with a normal degree of tolerance and self-restraint and in the circumstances in which he found himself might have reacted in the same or similar way as he did? 
The judge took issue with the fact that S1 had never specifically mentioned losing self-control during evidence and noted that whilst that was not determinative to the defence’s success, it was a relevant point to be noted all the same. Due to that, the judge reviewed other evidence in the case for any indication that S had in fact lost self-control and concluded that there was no indication of the same. In the run-up to the fatal stabbing, S2 and S3 had been out to buy a knife at his request and the group had specifically gone looking for V. The judge concluded that these were considered actions rather, than the actions of someone who had lost self-control. To conclude her considerations, the judge stated that “to stab someone in a flash of anger or out of retribution does not equate to a loss of self-control”. 
 
The trial judge concluded the defence did not apply and S1, S2 and S3 were convicted of murder. G was convicted of manslaughter and the fourth male was acquitted entirely.
 
S appealed against conviction on the basis that whilst the judge had applied the correct test for loss of control, the wrong conclusion had been reached. In support of this ground, it was stated that there were two facts that demonstrated S had in fact, lost control. The first being the injury suffered by V, a deep stab wound, that clearly required force. The second, S had made clear during his evidence that he was unable to fully describe what he was thinking at the time he stabbed V. Taken together, it was argued that this was sufficient evidence that S had in fact lost control and could rely on the defence.
 

Held


Appeal dismissed; conviction upheld.
 
The Court of Appeal didn’t accept that the nature of the injury caused to V was evidence of loss of control. Rather, they viewed it as evidence of S’ anger. Regarding the second point and S’ inability to describe his thought process, the Court of Appeal examined the transcripts of S’ interviews and concluded that they did not point to S having lost self-control, pointing out that the extracts of the interviews provided by the defence in support of their argument, had been taken out of context. Rather, when viewed as a whole, the transcripts supported that they demonstrated S had been acting rationally and had made a series of unlawful decisions. 
 
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