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Homicide In Perth

Murder and manslaughter are among the most serious offences that a person can be charged with in Western Australia. The WA the Criminal Code Compilation Act governs murder, manslaughter and other offences relating to homicide in Perth and elsewhere in WA. The Act prescribes mandatory minimum sentences for both adults and children found guilty of these offences. The Road Traffic Act 1974 also contains criminal offences that involve causing a person’s death.

Definition Of Murder

Section 279 of the Criminal Code Compilation Act, states that a person is guilty of murder if they unlawfully kill another person and:

  • they intended to cause the death of a person (regardless of whether they intended to kill the person who was actually killed); or
  • they intended to cause an injury that is likely to endanger the life of a person; or
  • they caused death by an act done by the accused in pursuit of an unlawful purpose and that is likely to endanger human life (regardless of whether they intended to hurt anyone).

Penalty For Murder

An adult found guilty of murder must be sentenced to life imprisonment unless the court considers it would clearly be unjust to impose a sentence of life imprisonment in the circumstances AND the offender is unlikely to be a threat to the community’s safety when they are released (in which case they must be sentenced to imprisonment for 20 years).

A child found guilty of murder faces a maximum penalty of imprisonment for life.

An adult who commits murder during an aggravated home burglary is liable to imprisonment for between 15 years and life.

A child who commits a murder during an aggravated home burglary is liable to a maximum of life imprisonment and a minimum of three years imprisonment or detention. Courts must impose a conviction and must not suspend any part of the term of imprisonment.


Under Section 280 of the Criminal Code, where a person unlawfully kills in circumstances that do not amount to murder, the accused is guilty of manslaughter. The maximum penalty for manslaughter is life imprisonment. For a person to be found guilty of manslaughter, the victim’s death must have been reasonably foreseeable.

If manslaughter occurs in the course of an aggravated home burglary, the following minimum penalties apply:

  • For an adult, imprisonment for 15 years;
  • For a child, imprisonment or detention for three years.

Defences To Homicide in Perth

The most commonly raised defences to charges of homicide in Perth and the rest of WA are self-defence and provocation.


It is a full defence to murder or manslaughter if the act was done in self-defence. For this defence to be made out, the accused must have had reasonable grounds for believing that their actions were necessary in self-defence or in defence of someone else and their response must be proportionate to the attack taking into account all the circumstances. 

If the accused was acting in self-defence but the force they used was excessive (ie. their actions were not a reasonable response to the threat they perceived that they faced) this is a partial defence to a murder charge. Where it is established that the actions of the accused were excessive self-defence, they will be found not guilty of murder but guilty of the alternative charge of manslaughter.


In Western Australia, provocation can be relied on as a partial defence to murder. If provocation is established, the accused will be found guilty of manslaughter instead of murder. The defence applies where there was provocative behaviour by the victim that caused the accused to lose their powers of self-control and form an intention to kill. The provocation must have been serious enough to have caused an ordinary person to lose their self-control and kill the victim before their passion had cooled (Section 246).  

Other criminal defences like mental impairment and immature age (where the accused is under 14) may also apply where a person is charged with murder or manslaughter.

Unlawful Assault Causing Death

Under Section 281, a person commits unlawful assault causing death if they unlawfully assault a person and the person dies as a result. The maximum penalty for this is 20 years imprisonment. This offence is different to manslaughter in that an accused can be found guilty even if the victim’s death was not reasonably foreseeable.

If a person commits unlawful assault causing death during an aggravated home burglary, a term of imprisonment must be imposed that is no less than: 

  • 15 years for an adult;
  • Three years for a child.

Homicide offences under the Road Traffic Act

There are also offences involving homicide in Perth that can be charged under the Road Traffic Act.

Dangerous Driving Causing Death

Section 59 of the Road Traffic Act 1974 provides that a person commits dangerous driving causing death if they cause the death of a person by causing an accident whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol or by driving dangerously. The maximum penalty is 20 years imprisonment.

Careless Driving Causing Death

Section 59BA of the Road Traffic Act provides that a person commits careless driving causing death if they cause another person’s death by driving without due care and attention. The maximum penalty is three years imprisonment or a fine of 720 penalty units.  

If you require legal advice about homicide in Perth or in any other legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.



Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.

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