Murder and Manslaughter
Homicide: Murder and Manslaughter in NSW
Homicide is a serious criminal offence that is accompanied with very heavy penalties if convicted. It is split into two distinct categories: murder and manslaughter.
‘Murder’ and ‘Manslaughter’ is a criminal offence that is dealt with under section 18 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
Murder is the branch of homicide that concerns the unlawful and intentional killing of another person.
In order to be convicted of murder, the prosecution must prove, beyond reasonable doubt, the following:
- A voluntary act or omission; and
- Caused the death of the deceased; and
- The voluntary act or omission was either;
- intended to inflict grievous bodily harm;
- intended to kill;
- was done or omitted with reckless indifference to human life; or
- done in an attempt to commit, or during or immediately after the commission, by the accused, or some accomplice with them.
If the prosecution is unable to establish all of these elements beyond reasonable doubt, then the accused must be acquitted.
Manslaughter refers to the unintentional killing of another person, and there are two separate categories: voluntary and involuntary.
For voluntary manslaughter, it is where the elements of murder have been established, however the conviction is reduced due to:
- Provocation; or
- Abnormality of the mind due to substantial impairment; or
- Excessive self-defence, where the test applied is whether reasonable person in the accused’s position would have considered the lethal response as being reasonable in the circumstances.
For involuntary manslaughter, this arises in circumstances where the death was caused by:
- An unlawful and dangerous act; or
- An act considered to be negligent as it fell short of the standard of care a reasonable person would have exercise in the same circumstances.
In accordance with the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), if an accused is found guilty of murder or manslaughter, then the maximum penalty is either imprisonment for:
- Life; or
- 25 years.
A life sentence is generally reserved for the most serious of cases where a court is satisfied that the level of culpability is to such a serious degree that community interests of retribution, punishment, community protection, and deterrence can only be appeased through a life sentence.