Murder and manslaughter are two of the most serious crimes in the world, and they have been around for centuries. In Victoria, Australia, murder and manslaughter are criminal offences that carry severe penalties, including imprisonment.
The common law and the Crimes Act of 1958 (Victoria) both make a number of offences related to the wrongful killing of another person illegal. The degree of blameworthiness used to categorise crime, such as attempted murder, murder, and manslaughter, is a key factor in this distinction.
The maximum sentence for manslaughter, which is an indictable offence, is 25 years in prison. The Supreme Court of Victoria hears both charges. Trials can occasionally drag on for months or even years due to the complexity of these issues.
This article will cover sections 3 to 5 of the Crimes Act 1958 of Victoria, Australia.
What Is Murder?
Murder is the unlawful and intentional killing of another person. A person will be guilty of murder if the Prosecution proves beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The accused caused the victim’s death;
- The accused’s actions were conscious, voluntary, and deliberate;
- At the time of performing the actions that caused the death, the accused intended to kill or seriously injure, knowing that death or serious injury would occur; and
- The accused killed the victim without lawful justification.
Section 3: Punishment for Murder
Section 3 of Crimes Act 1958 establishes the duration of imprisonment for individuals convicted of murder under the Act. It says that any person convicted of murder is liable to:
- Life imprisonment, or
- Imprisonment for such other terms as the court may fix.
Moreover, the standard sentence if an individual is convicted with this offence is 30 years if the prosecution has proved the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt that:
- the person murdered was a custodial officer on duty or an emergency worker on duty; and
- at the time of carrying out the conduct the accused knew or was reckless as to whether that person was a custodial officer or an emergency worker.
However, in other cases, the standard sentence is 25 years.
Section 3A: Unintentional Killing in the Course or Furtherance of a Crime of Violence
Under this section, a person who accidentally kills another person by using violence in the course or furtherance of a crime that requires violence may get punishment. If an individual commits such a crime, one may get sentence of:
- level 1 imprisonment (life in prison) or
- imprisonment for a term of 10 years or more
The rule was that, for this offence, the court will find the offender guilty of murder as if he had killed that person on purpose. However, this rule of law, also known as the “felony-murder rule,” is now overturned.
Section 3B: Provocation No Longer a Partial Defence to Murder
Under section 3B, the authorities abolished the rule of law that provocation reduces the crime of murder to manslaughter in 2005. Before that year, the defendant could use “provocation” as an argument to change a murder conviction to a manslaughter conviction.
In Victoria, provocation is no longer a valid partial defence. However, when establishing the proper punishment to impose for a crime of murder and for non-fatal assaults, any provocative behaviour by a victim is taken into account.
Reason Why This Rule Is Abolished
The defence of provocation was instituted to cover the scenario in which a victim of domestic violence kills their abuser following ongoing and prolonged abuse, in a circumstance where the defence of self-defence may not be successful.
In reality, people who killed their partners frequently invoked the defence when the victim was attempting to quit the relationship or had been unfaithful. Thus, this was seen as an abuse of the provocation defence and led to its abolition.
In Victoria, provocation is now taken into account during sentencing, not when choosing what crime the accused is guilty of. When an offender’s guilt is lessened by a provocation, this may change the weight given to different sentencing objectives.
It could make deterrence and shaming less important and put more focus on the offender’s recovery. But in cases of serious violence, deterrence, and public shame are generally still important, even when the court agrees that the offender faced provocation.
Section 4A: Manslaughter—Single Punch or Strike Taken to Be Dangerous Act
What is “single punch manslaughter”? Section 4A explains this concept. A single punch or strike is an act that:
- is delivered to any part of a person’s head or neck
- by itself causes an injury to the head or neck.
Under the law, a single punch or strike can be a dangerous act relating to manslaughter by an unlawful and dangerous act.
Moreover, a single punch or strike can kill a person, even if the injury that kills the person is not the injury that the punch or strike itself caused to the person’s head or neck. Rather, the punch or strike to the person’s head or neck causes another injury, or to another part of the person’s body.
For example, if someone were to punch another person in the head, and that person were to fall and bang their head on the road, resulting in fatal injuries, it is possible that the punch was the direct cause of death.
Additionally, this section does not limit the circumstances in which a punch or strike may be an unlawful and dangerous act.
Section 5: Punishment of Manslaughter
The punishment for manslaughter is a level 2 imprisonment or 25 years maximum. Moreover, if a person commits an offence under section 4A, the offender may suffer the following legal consequences for such acts:
- The offender may be subject to a custodial order under the Sentencing Act 1991.
- A term of imprisonment for manslaughter and a non-parole period of not less than 10 years be fixed.
Talk to a Criminal Offence Lawyer
Criminal offence lawyers can provide valuable assistance to clients facing murder and manslaughter charges in Victoria, Australia. Here are some ways in which lawyers can help:
- Legal advice to clients charged with murder and manslaughter.
- Defence strategy tailored to the specific circumstances of the case.
- Negotiations with the prosecution to explore the possibility of reducing the charges or securing a favourable plea deal.
- Court representation, including bail hearings, pre-trial conferences, and trials.
- Sentencing advocacy, if a client is guilty of murder and manslaughter, lawyers can advocate for a fair and appropriate sentence.
- Emotional support, reassurance, and guidance throughout the legal process, helping clients navigate the complexities of the criminal justice system.
Remember that the specific services provided by lawyers may vary depending on the individual case and the lawyer’s expertise. It is advisable for individuals facing murder and manslaughter charges to consult with JB Solicitors’ experienced criminal defence lawyers who specialise in these types of cases.
Contact us today.