Other defenses (Zimbabwe)

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The requirements for the various defences that can be raised in respect of criminal charges are set out in Chapter 14 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. Defence counsel should obviously familiarise themselves with what defences are available and what the essential requirements are for these defences.

In cases involving violence the most important defences are self-defence, provocation and intoxication.

Self-defence and defence of a third person can be full defences if all the requirements for this defence are satisfied. Involuntary intoxication can be a full defence. Involuntary intoxication involves a situation such as where someone slipped a drug into X's drink and X consumed it without X knowing that it contained the drug. If X lacked the mens rea for the crime because of the effects of the drug, he or she will have a full defence. On the other hand, provocation and voluntary intoxication can only be defences to a charge of murder. If as a result of the provocation or intoxication or a combination of the two, X lacked the intention to kill, he or she will be found guilty of culpable homicide. In respect of provocation, even if X did intend to kill, if the provocation great and caused X to lose his or her self-control and even a reasonable person subjected to that degree of provocation would also have lost his or her self-control, the crime of murder will be reduced to culpable homicide. Even if the provocation or voluntary intoxication do not constitute a partial defence, they may still amount to extenuating factors so that the death penalty will not be imposed. In respect of all crimes other than murder, the provocation and voluntary intoxication can at most be mitigatory factors.

The question, "Why did you do this?" should always be put to see whether there is some defence which may be open to X. With property crimes like theft and malicious damage to property the legal practitioner should always investigate whether X committed the property crime under any sort of claim of right, claim of right can be a full defence Although ignorance of the law is no defence in our law (except where X acts on the basis of mistaken advice of an administrative official, claim of right can be a defence. See ss 118, 122 and 144 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. See, for instance, Kawocha S-22-92.


See Zimbabwe Criminal Defense Manual