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Criminal Law TheoryDoctrines of the General Part$
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Stephen Shute and Andrew Simester

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780199243495

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199243495.001.0001

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Killing The Passive Abuser: A Theoretical Defence

Killing The Passive Abuser: A Theoretical Defence

(p.283) 12 Killing The Passive Abuser: A Theoretical Defence
Criminal Law Theory


Oxford University Press

This chapter considers evidence of so-called ‘battered woman syndrome’ (BWS) and its role in self-defence cases with respect to criminal law. If we are committed to regarding human life as special, we should not regard the deliberate taking of life in self-defence as justified unless it was absolutely necessary on the immediate occasion. This restriction effectively bars battered women who kill passive abusers from pleading self-defence, because the abuser will not at that moment have been posing an imminent danger of the kind that called for an immediate response. This chapter disagrees with the view that self-defence is an inappropriate plea for a battered woman who has killed a passive abuser. It discusses self-defence as a justification, reasonableness in self-defence, reasonableness of beliefs and the ‘imminence’ requirement, relevance of BWS evidence, and duress.

Keywords:   battered woman syndrome, self-defence, justification, reasonableness, beliefs, imminence, duress, criminal law, homicide

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