The definitions and maximum penalties associated with various Homicide offences in South Australia
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Murder and Manslaughter are considered to be one of the most serious criminal offences worldwide. If you have been charged with any of these offences you must seek independent legal advice immediately. Jail time in most cases is almost certain for these offences. However, like every offence, penalties can be lessened.
Murder is renowned as one of the most serious offences in Australia. In SA, the maximum penalty for murder is imprisonment for life. Due to these dire consequences, it is essential that you seek legal advice straight away.
For murder to be proven the offender must voluntarily cause the death of another, and either have had the intention to cause death, intention to cause grievous bodily harm, was reckless as to causing death (that is, if you foresaw that it was probable that death would result), or recklessness as to causing grievous bodily harm.
Murder can also result from an omission, that is, a “non-action.” But this may only arise where the offender had a legally recognized duty to perform action. This duty may arise in two ways:
- If there is a recognized legal duty to act imposed by law; or
- If you have taken action that puts another in danger of death or injury, a duty is then owed to that person put in danger by the person who created the risk of harm, to take action to avert the threatened harm.
What are some actions that may constitute murder?
Examples of murder include:
- Shooting someone in the head or chest from close range;
- Purposefully not feeding your child;
- Demolishing or blowing up a building without checking whether anyone was inside;
- Attacking someone with a cricket bat because you wanted seriously injure them;
- Pushing someone of a cliff.
What must the prosecution prove?
To convict you of murder, the police must prove each of the following beyond reasonable doubt:
- That you voluntarily did the act or failed to do an act; (voluntariness)
- That the act, or failure to act, resulted in the death of another person; (causation) and
- That you either:
Intended to cause death; or
Intended to cause grievous bodily harm; or
Were reckless as to causing death; or
Were reckless as to causing grievous bodily harm.
What are the Defences?
As seen in preceding links, the prosecution must be able to prove a number of factors for the offence to be made out. If a lawyer can show that these elements have not been satisfied (i.e. the person did not cause the death of another (causation), the alleged offender may be set free. But, a skilled and experienced lawyer is needed for this.
One example is by proving that the offender’s actions were not voluntary. If it can be shown that the person’s actions were not voluntary, this can successfully defend a murder charge. The following are some examples:
- Reflex; or
- Impaired consciousness.
Some other potential ways to defend a murder charge may include:
- To argue that you did not commit the act or did not fail to act;
- To argue that you did not foresee that it was probable that death would result;
- You did the act in self-defence;
- You did the act in necessity; or
- You did the act in duress.
Which court will hear your matter?
As this offence is very serious, it is likely that it will be heard in the District or the Supreme Court.
The offence of manslaughter is complicated because of its close relationship to the offence of murder. Nevertheless, it is treated very seriously by the courts and a conviction will most of the time land you with a criminal record. The maximum penalty for manslaughter is imprisonment for life and/or to pay such fine as the Court awards, or to both such imprisonment and fine.
There are two different types of manslaughter – Voluntary Manslaughter and Involuntary Manslaughter.
You will be convicted of voluntary manslaughter if you are guilty for murder but successfully defend your case on the grounds of an applicable defence. An explanation of defences can be found in preceding links.
There are two types of involuntary manslaughter. They are the following:
- Manslaughter by Unlawful and Dangerous Act
If you cause the death of another person by committing and unlawful and dangerous act, without intending or being reckless as to causing death or grievous bodily harm, this is involuntary manslaughter.
- Manslaughter by Criminal Negligence
If you commit an act so dangerous and which falls so far short of a standard of care that your actions result in another person’s death, this is manslaughter by criminal negligence.
What must the prosecution prove?
This depends on the type of manslaughter charge.
For Manslaughter by Criminal Negligence, the prosecution needs to prove that the alleged offender intended to do the act which caused the victim’s death, in circumstances that falls short of the standard of care of a reasonable person. This requires them to ask whether a reasonable person in the position of the alleged offender (looking at their age, experience, knowledge etc.) would have done what they did. This is very difficult to prove, which leaves open many avenues for expert lawyers to take to successfully defend this.
Voluntary Manslaughter arises as an offence only if a defence is applied to an offence of murder. So for example, if a lawyer successfully argues that you committed an act in self-defence which caused the death of another, voluntary manslaughter may arise.
What are some examples of manslaughter?
Examples of manslaughter include:
- Punching someone causing them to hit their head on the floor and die (similarly to one punch attacks or king hits);
- Shooting someone accidentally while hunting or performing other shooting activities;
- Not bothering to secure a part of a work site which causes the death of another worker.
Which Court will hear your case?
As this is a very serious offence, it is likely that either the District or Supreme Court will hear this charge.
Do I need a lawyer to represent me for Murder or Manslaughter?
Absolutely. There are many defenses to argue to successfully beat a murder or manslaughter charge, as well as lessening the penalty. If you are worried about imprisonment, fines or having a criminal record, we urge that you contact a lawyer immediately. Our solicitors specialize in these matters and will use their experience and expertise to lead you through the process to the best possible outcome. Remember, all cases are arguable and defendable!
Where to Next?
In South Australia, you can see that these offences are treated very seriously. It is therefore important to get the best legal advice as early as possible. Call the best – Call Liptak Lawyers on (08) 8366 6584
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