Infidelity murder defence to end

By Emmeline Saunders

The right of murder suspects to use their partner’s sexual infidelity as a partial defence in court is set to end.

Ministers are pushing ahead with the plans after they were thrown out by the Lords last month – hailed by shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve as “a victory for common sense”.

Yesterday in a Commons debate MPs overturned the peers’ vote and backed the proposal, which would apply equally to women and men, by 299 votes to 145.

Under a government amendment to the coroners and justice bill, the loss of self-control caused by a partner’s infidelity would be ruled out in deciding whether a murder charge could be reduced to manslaughter.

Claire Ward, a junior justice minister, argued the issue was about whether an unfaithful partner was “bringing upon their own death at the hands of their partner”.

“We do not think that in this day and age it is appropriate for a man, for example, to be able to say that he killed his wife as a result of sexual infidelity and that is essentially the reason,” she said.

“However if there are other factors that come into play, the court will of course have an opportunity to consider them, but not exclusively sexual infidelity.”

Mr Grieve said during the debate that the government “has decided that thousands of years of human experience and history should be jettisoned for a piece of political correctness and proclamation”.

Juries, he added, could make up their own minds about what constituted a partial defence because they did it all the time.

Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe asked: “What is unique about sexual infidelity that it’s got to be removed from the almost endless list of circumstances in which somebody might be provoked?”

Ms Ward said the circumstances were “quite different”, and Labour MP David Winnick told the Commons the “message should be sent out” that infidelity should never be an excuse to murder.

The result will be seen as a victory for equalities minister Harriet Harman, who campaigned for a change in the law to stop men “getting away with murder”.

The bill will now return to the Lords, but ministers are keen to avoid any more lengthy delays to its progression.