Ms Sarah Pike, 27 (the defendant), had been married to her husband Mr Malcolm Pike, 29, for 10 years. Their arranged marriage had been organised since age three when they were toddlers and they were formally engaged at the age of 17. It was around this time that Malcolm started being aggressive towards Sarah, as he would often binge drink and become abusive in the evenings. As the marriage went on, Malcolm’s abusive and violent nature increased and he would frequently threaten and beat her.
One night, Malcolm returned home after a weekend of drinking at the local pub. He walked over to the sofa and lay down, and called for Sarah. When Sarah approached, he grabbed her by her neck and demanded that she provided him with the money for him to go back out in the following days. If she did not do this by the following day, he threatened to beat her ‘black and blue’. After shouting more abuse at Sarah, he let her go and fell asleep on the sofa.
It was also known to Sarah that Malcolm was having an affair, as this is where he would spend his nights when he did not return home. Whilst he slept, Sarah went into her garage to put on the washing and found some petrol that Malcolm kept for his motorbike. In a sudden impulse of anger, she then proceeded to pour the petrol over her sleeping partner and set it alight. The neighbours noticed the smoke and strange smell coming from the Pike residence and called the emergency services, who took Malcolm to the Intensive Care Unit of the local hospital. He died in hospital, two days later.
Legal issues to be tried
The Jury were faced with two questions regarding the defendant:
- Does murder apply? Has there been an unlawful killing of another human being with the specific intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm? If so, the defendant is guilty of murder and any partial defences to it may apply such as diminished responsibility.
- If the defendant’s guilt for murder has been accepted by the jury, as the defence counsel would like, can her crime be mitigated by the partial defence of diminished responsibility to manslaughter? If so, the defendant is guilty of manslaughter by way of diminished responsibility. When the partial defence is successfully pleaded it has the effect of reducing a murder conviction to the less serious conviction of voluntary manslaughter. This means that a mandatory life sentence is avoided reducing the custodial sentence length.
Diminished responsibility requirements
As set out in Section 2 of the Homicide Act 1957 (amended by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009), the defendant Ms Sarah Pike and her legal counsel must prove beyond all reasonable doubt (the jury must be very sure) that:
- She has an abnormality of mental functioning.
- Her abnormality of the mind must have been caused by a recognised medical condition.
- Her abnormality of the mind must substantially impair her mental responsibility.
Moot Show Trial (running order)
- Opening Statements
- Senior Counsel for both sides
- Prosecution Calls Victim’s Mother to the stand: Examination in Chief (Junior Prosecution Counsel)
- Cross Examination of Victim’s Mother (Junior Defence Counsel Defence call witness to the stand: Examination-in-chief for defendant (Senior Defence Counsel)
- Cross Examination of Defendant (Senior Prosecution Counsel) Prosecution calls Therapist to the stand: Examination in Chief (Junior Prosecution Counsel)
- Examination in chief for Therapist (Junior defence counsel)
- Closing Statements – Senior Counsel for both sides
- Jury Deliberation