Sex, Culpability and the Defence of Provocation by Dr Danielle Tyson

Criminology researcher, Dr Danielle Tyson, examines the controversial partial defence of provocation in her new book, Sex, Culpability and the Defence of Provocation (Routledge, 2013).

The partial defence of provocation is one of the most controversial doctrines within the criminal law. It has long been said to operate as a classic apology for male violence against women, and other men. In response to criticisms of provocation, it has now been abolished in a number of international jurisdictions. Addressing the trajectory of debates about reform of the provocation defence across different jurisdictions, Sex, Culpability and the Defence of Provocation is one of the first to analyse provocation cases. In the book, Dr Tyson shows how in such cases the defendant attempts to shift part of the blame onto the victim by relying on a variety of stock stories, such as the nagging woman, the unfaithful or departing wife, or a woman who impugns his masculinity.  She analyses law as essentially a storytelling enterprise arguing that while we don’t see or read of the nagging woman per se in contemporary cases, and women aren’t called scolds anymore, through their narratives, defence attorneys continue to evoke these stereotypes. The book discusses how defence narratives also draw on key plots, such as the ‘romance-gone-wrong’, the ‘love-hate relationship’ and the ‘love-triangle’, to solicit sympathy from judges and juries. Now that provocation is gone, Dr Tyson argues, it is time to tell a different story. This is to be achieved by bringing the woman’s voice back into the courtroom drama. If we are to put an end to the injustice of provocation’s victim-blaming narratives, we need to see more prosecuting counsel and judges actively resisting these damaging court narratives. This entails telling a different story, one that explicitly condemns the murderous rage of the cuckolded defendant, emphasises the context of separation and affirms every woman’s right to exercise her independence, autonomy and right to leave a relationship.