R v Inglis [2011] 1 WLR 1110

 MurderMercy killing as a mitigating factor for sentencing under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 Schedule 21

Facts

The appellant, Frances Inglis (F), was convicted of murdering her son Thomas (T). T was in a vegetative state due to serious head injuries. T’s family were advised that T may be able to live an independent life. F, who suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, did not believe the medical opinion and wished to end her son’s suffering. F made two attempts to kill her son by injecting him with heroin, the second succeeded. She appealed against her conviction and sentence.

Issue

F maintained that she had performed an act of mercy to end T’s suffering, which was her duty as his mother. F also claimed the partial defence of provocation. This was the first case of murder involving a mercy killing before the Court of Appeal.

Held

Mercy killing is murder. Both the actus reus and the mens rea for murder are satisfied and the motivation, whether for malevolent reasons or familial love, is irrelevant. There was no defence of provocation, as F lost no self-control and the murder was a pre-meditated. The conviction was upheld. The fact that the appellant subjectively believed that the murder was an act of mercy was only relevant at the sentencing stage under Schedule 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. Schedule 21, paragraph 11 provides that a belief by the offender that the murder was an act of mercy would be a mitigating factor in sentencing. As such, certain aggravating factors under Schedule 21 which are present in virtually every mercy killing should not be taken into account where the individual was motivated by mercy. F’s appeal against her sentence was allowed, and her minimum term was reduced to five years.