Homicide In Canberra
Homicide offences such as murder and manslaughter are among the most serious criminal offences in Canberra and the ACT. They are strictly indictable offences, which must be finalised in the ACT Supreme Court after a committal hearing in the Magistrates Court or Children’s Court. This article outlines the offences that relate to homicide in Canberra and surrounds.
Under section 12 of the Crimes Act 1900, a person commits murder if they cause the death of a person while intending to cause death or serious harm or being recklessly indifferent to the possibility of causing a death.
Murder carries life imprisonment.
The ACT has several different manslaughter charges, which all carry a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment or more.
Under 15 of the Act, a person who commits an unlawful homicide that does not amount to murder is guilty of manslaughter.
Under Section 15 of the Act, a person is guilty of aggravated manslaughter if they commit manslaughter where the victim is a pregnant woman. The maximum penalty for aggravated manslaughter is 28 years.
There are two industrial manslaughter offences in the ACT.
Under Section 49C of the Act, an employer commits the offence of industrial manslaughter if a worker dies at work or dies from an injury sustained in the course of their employment and:
- the employer’s conduct caused the worker’s death and the employer was reckless as to causing serious harm to a worker by their conduct or negligent about causing the death of a worker;
- the maximum penalty for industrial manslaughter is imprisonment for 20 years, a fine of 2000 penalty units, or both.
Senior officer offence
Under Section 49D, a senior officer commits the offence of industrial manslaughter if a worker dies in the course of their employment or from an injury sustained in the course of their work and the senior officer’s conduct caused the death and the senior officer was reckless as to causing serious harm to a worker by their conduct or negligent about causing the death of a worker.
Partial defence of provocation
Under Section 13, when a person is tried for murder in Canberra or elsewhere in the ACT, they may argue that their actions occurred under provocation. If this is accepted, where the jury would otherwise find them guilty of murder, it must acquit them of murder and find them guilty of the alternative charge of manslaughter.
An act occurs under provocation where the act results from the accused’s loss of self-control induced by grossly insulting conduct by the deceased. In order to amount to provocation, the deceased’s conduct must have been such that it was capable of inducing an ordinary person in the accused’s position to lose self-control to the point of forming the intention to kill or to be recklessly indifferent as to causing their death.
Defences To Manslaughter
A person charged with manslaughter has a number of defences available to them.
Self-defence is a full defence to any charge of personal violence including homicide in Canberra. The defence is set out in section 42 of the Criminal Code 2002.
A person is not guilty if they believed their conduct was necessary:
- to defend themselves or another person;
- to prevent or end the unlawful imprisonment of a person;
When an accused person raises self-defence, the prosecution bears the burden of proving that they were not acting in self-defence.
A person charged with manslaughter may contest the charge by arguing in their defence that they were suffering from a mental impairment at the time of the alleged offence. The person will be acquitted under Section 28 if the mental impairment is found to have meant that they:
- did not know the nature of their conduct;
- did not know it was wrong; or
- could not control the conduct.
A person charged with manslaughter may also have a defence of duress of sudden and extraordinary emergency available to them.
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