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Title: Access to justice : women who kill, self-defence and pre-trial decision making
Author: McPherson, Rachel Mary
ISNI:       0000 0004 5358 541X
Awarding Body: Glasgow Caledonian University
Current Institution: Glasgow Caledonian University
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis explores the pre-trial barriers to justice women potentially face upon killing their abusers. Legally, socially and politically, increased attention has been paid to domestic aouse in the UK in recent years, but less attention has been paid to women who kill their male abusers. Elsewhere, commentators have discussed women's use of self-defence in this context, pointing to pre-trial decision making as key in terms of potentially accessing this defence. Despite this, neither self-defence nor pre-trial procedures have been the focus of any work which has examined the issue of women who kill their abusers in the UK. This thesis aims to illuminate this gap in knowledge, with a focus specifically on Scotland because of its unique legal system and requirements of self-defence in particular. This research draws on thirty qualitative interviews with criminal lawyers with experience advising women who have killed their abusive partners. It has specifically examined the difficulty women encounter in having their actions deemed justifiable through a successful application of self-defence. This has been done from the perspective of lawyers' willingness to go to trial on this basis (rather than its success at trial level, due to the high number of cases of this nature which are resolved by a guilty plea being tendered to a reduced charge of culpable homicide). What will be argued is that barriers to justice for women who kill their abusers are evident at both structural and individual levels. At a structural level, the criminal justice system itself incentivises trial avoidance, whilst criminal law understandings of self-defence are based on male conceptions of (public) violence. At the level of individuals; decision making for many lawyers is driven by an understanding of domestic abuse which is based on stereotypes and an inability to conceptualise women's actions in this context as legitimate - meaning that ultimately the social and legal context of the offence may remain hidden. The result is that legal practice serves to narrowly conceptualise female perpetrated homicides. This has very significant implications for women's engagement with pre~trial criminal justice processes, their access to self-defence and more widely, for how domestic abuse is understood by and translated to wider society.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available