Who has a right or not to plead self-defence? (2)

“If women were human…would we be beaten nearly to death, and to death, by men with whom we are close (Mackinnon, 2007, p.41)?

 Jacqueline and Bernadette received their judgment, in respective circumstances. The former got ten years’ imprisonment for killing her husband with three gunshots from the rear. And Bernadette received a five-year suspended sentence. This is where the accounts of these women became confused. We agreed they were victims. We agreed they killed their perpetrators in self-defence. Nevertheless, the French justice failed to see Jacqueline as indeed a battered woman. This is puzzling. What other evidences the judge needs to see Jacqueline Sauvage, as she should be? A victim. What worked in favour of Bernadette and not of Jacqueline? Who holds a right to plead self-defence and who has not?

Jacqueline Sauvage’s daughters and supporters, held a large public demonstration on 23 January (Le Monde.fr, 2016). Likewise, prominent French politicians joined in the signing of a petition that ask President François Hollande to grant her a presidential pardon. Luckily, he awarded her (Delacroix & Robin, 2016). Albeit that does not clear Sauvage of all accusations retained against her. She is still considered a murderer under the French law. Aside from that she cannot walk out immediately away from the prison based on the pardon. She will have to undergo a series of psychological and medical assays to confirm she is not a risk to the public. This calls for another question on what constitutes liberty. On 8 February, Jacqueline checked out of the prison, she was before. At present, she is at the National Evaluation Centre in Réau, Seine-et-Marne region (Schulz & T.M, 2016). She has already passed two years and four months in prison out of the ten years and will be in that centre until April.

Both women’s cases have created huge media attention and debates on soliciting self-defence. Even though they are the victims, battered women who kill their perpetrators have always struggled with the difficulties of falling within the scope of complete self-defence (Gausden, 2011, p.11). Sauvage’s condemnation falls into the category of what Teays (1998, p.64) denominates, imperfect self-defence. She states that, “A imperfect self-defence rests on an unreasonable belief in the imminence of a threat to life or great bodily harm, leading to the decision to defend oneself with lethal force.” The Court’s speculation falls in the line of argument the long-term effect of abuse that battered women experience in a continuous period will not cause them to act abruptly (Zaman, 2015, p.5). In other words, the courts rarely accept a defence of provocation from the victimised woman. For instance, in England and Wales a new partial defence of loss of control replaced the partial defence of provocation in the law of murder (McAviney, 2011, p.1).

There are two factors a person charged with murder has to meet when referring to provocation. Virgo (1999, p.7) explains below,

(To be continued in the Next post)


Works Cited

Delacroix, C., & Robin, C. (2016, February 6). Jacqueline Sauvage : la grâce enfin! Retrieved February 8, 2016, from ELLE: http://www.elle.fr/Societe/News/Jacqueline-Sauvage-la-grace-enfin-3031687

Gausden, A. C. (2011). Defences to Murder: A Woman-Centred Analysis . Durham University, Durham Law School. Durham: Durham E-Theses.

Le Monde.fr. (2016, January 23). Manifestation de soutien à Jacqueline Sauvage, en prison pour avoir tué son mari violent . Retrieved February 2, 2016, from Le Monde.fr: http://www.lemonde.fr/police-justice/article/2016/01/23/manifestation-de-soutien-a-jacqueline-sauvage-en-prison-pour-avoir-tue-son-mari-violent_4852487_1653578.html

Mackinnon, C. A. (2007). The Promise of CEDAW’s Optional Protocol. In C. A. Mackinnon, Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues (1st Edition ed., p. 65). Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

McAviney, V. (2011). Should Anger Mitigate Murder? An Examination of the Doctrine of Loss of Control. Durham University, Durham Law School. Durham: Durham E-Theses.

Schulz, N., & T.M. (2016, February 8). Jacqueline Sauvage quitte sa prison de Saran. Retrieved February 8, 2016, from Europe1: http://www.europe1.fr/faits-divers/jacqueline-sauvage-quitte-sa-prison-de-saran-2664555

Teays, W. (1998). Standards of Perfection and Battered Women’s Self-defense: Imperfect Self-defense. In Violence Against Women: Philosophical Perspectives (1st Edition ed., p. 64). Ithaca, USA: Cornell University Press .

Virgo, G. (1999, March). Defining Provocation. The Cambridge Law Journal , 58(1), 7.

Zaman, K. (2015). Is the defence of loss of control a ‘better’ defence for female victims of domestic abuse than provocation? . (S. Elfving, Ed.) Student Law Journal, 1(1), 5.

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