Murder and Manslaughter
Murder is one of the most serious charges with which a person can be charged in Victoria. It is not uncommon for an accused to initially be charged with Murder, and for the charge of Manslaughter to be laid at a later stage in the criminal proceeding. For the charge of Murder, the death of the victim can be caused intentionally or recklessly.
There are three forms of Murder. The three ways in which a Murder can be committed are:
- The accused can cause the victim’s death while intending to kill or cause really serious injury, or being reckless as to that result;
- The accused can unintentionally cause the victim’s death in the course or furtherance of certain violent crimes; and
- The accused can unintentionally cause the victim’s death in order to escape arrest.
Self-defence, which includes the defence of another, is a defence available to an accused in certain circumstances when they are charged with the offence of Murder.
The law of self-defence is contained in section 332K of the Crimes Act 1958. The law in Victoria states that a person is not guilty of an offence if the person carries out the conduct constituting the offence in self-defence.
A person carries out conduct in self-defence if:
- The person believes that the conduct is necessary in self-defence; and
- The conduct is a reasonable response in the circumstances as the person perceives them.
However, self-defence only applies in the case of murder if the person believes that the conduct is necessary to defend the person or another person from the infliction of death or really serious injury.
The are two categories of Manslaughter:
- Manslaughter by unlawful and dangerous act; and
- Negligent Manslaughter.
To be guilty of Manslaughter by an unlawful and dangerous act causing death, four matters must be proven. The Prosecution must prove each element below beyond reasonable doubt:
- That the accused committed an act that caused the death of another person;
- That the relevant act was committed consciously, voluntarily and deliberately;
- That the relevant act was unlawful; and
- That the relevant act was dangerous.
To be guilty of the offence of Negligent Manslaughter, four matters must be proven. The Prosecution must prove each element below beyond reasonable doubt:
- The accused owed the victim a duty of care;
- The accused breached that duty by criminal negligence;
- The act which breached the duty of care was committed consciously and voluntarily; and
- The accused’s breach of the duty caused the victim’s death.
Each of the categories of Manslaughter have defences available to them.
In Victoria, the Crimes Act 1958 states that the maximum penalty for Manslaughter is 25 years’ imprisonment.