New Zealand abolishes provocation defense

15:34, November 27, 2009      

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The defense of provocation, which can be used to reduce murder to manslaughter, has been abolished in New Zealand.

New Zealand Parliament passed the repeal bill on Thursday night by 116 votes to five, with only the Act Party opposing it, New Zealand Press Association reported on Friday.

New Zealand Justice Minister Simon Power introduced the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill in August after the Law Commission had twice recommended abolition.

He said at the time the government considered the law was flawed.

"It effectively provides a defense for lashing out in anger, not just any anger but violent, homicidal rage," Power said.

"It rewards lack of self-control by enabling an intentional killing to be categorized as something other than murder."

The provocation defense came under debate after Otago University tutor Clayton Weatherston claimed he was provoked into stabbing ex-girlfriend Sophie Elliott 216 times.

Weatherston denied murdering her, but admitted manslaughter. The jury found him guilty of murder.

Labor, the Greens and the Maori Party supported the repeal bill and there were cries of "shame" when Act MP David Garrett said his party opposed it.

Garrett said the central point in the Weatherston case was that the defense failed.

"Abolishing it suggests we don't trust juries," he said.

ACT Party leader Rodney Hide said killing when provoked was "truly understandable and perhaps human" in some circumstances.

Hide said people should consider what they would do if they had discovered Weatherston standing over Elliott.

Source: Xinhua
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