Murder/Manslaughter in the ACT

Murder

  1. Murder is an offence under s12 of the Crimes Act 1900 (ACT).
  2. In the ACT, murder is punishable by imprisonment for life.
  3. Under the Crimes Act 1900 (ACT), murder is defined as causing the death of another person intentionally or with reckless indifference to the probability of death or with the intention of causing serious harm.
  4. The offence of murder will commence in the ACT Magistrates Court but can only be finalised in the ACT Supreme Court. If proceeding to trial, the matter must be heard before a jury.
  5. If the jury cannot find you guilty of murder because the prosecution cannot prove your intent or mental state at the time of the offence beyond reasonable doubt, then a jury can find you guilty of manslaughter if it is proved you caused the death.

Given the gravity of a murder charge and its potential life imprisonment penalty, it is critical to have a skilled criminal defence lawyer.

To secure a conviction for a murder charge in the ACT, the prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond reasonable doubt:

  • Causation: That you caused the death of another person.
  • Intent or Recklessness: That you intended to cause death, had reckless indifference to the probability of causing death, or intended to cause serious harm to any person.

What do I need to do for it to be proven I caused the death of another person? 

You can only be charged with murder if another person has died as a result of your actions. In the Criminal Code 2002 (ACT), death means the irreversible cessation of all function of a person’s brain or circulation of blood in a person’s body.

How does the prosecution prove my actions were intentional?

For an act of murder to be intentional, it needs to be proven you had made the decision to bring about an act of a particular kind or particular result – this being the killing of another person.

What does it mean to be recklessly indifferent to the probability of causing death? 

You may also be found guilty of murder if the prosecution can prove that the act was done with the foresight of the probability of death arising from the act. This means that it can be enough for the prosecution to prove that you were aware that your acts may result in the death of another person and you committed the act that caused a murder anyway.

What does it mean to cause serious harm? 

Finally, murder can be established if it can be proved that you intended to cause serious harm to the person who died. Serious harm is defined in the Criminal Code 2002 (ACT) as any harm that:

  1. endangers, or is likely to endanger, human life; or
  2. is, or is likely to be, significant and longstanding.

What defences are available for murder?

There are a number of defences for murder charges, such as provocation, diminished responsibility, self-defence and mental impairment. If these defences are made out, then you will be either acquitted outright or found guilty of manslaughter instead.

Provocation

Under s13 of the Crimes Act 1900 (ACT) a person facing a murder charge may be acquitted and found guilty of manslaughter instead if it can be proven that the deceased provoked you to the point where you lost self-control and committed the act that killed the deceased. For this to be proven, the provocation must have been serious enough to cause an ordinary person to lose their self-control and

  1. form an intent to kill the deceased; or
  2. be recklessly indifferent to the probability of causing the deceased’s death; or
  3. form an intent to cause serious harm to the deceased.

Diminished responsibility

Under s14 of the Crimes Act 1900 (ACT) a person on trial for murder will not be convicted of murder if, when the act or omission causing death occurred, the person was suffering from an abnormality of mind that is significant enough to impair them so as to not be mentally responsible for the act. If you prove diminished responsibility you are still liable to be convicted of manslaughter.

Self-defence

A person has a full defence to any offence involving the use of force (including murder and manslaughter) if they acted in defence of themselves or another person. Self-defence arises if you believed that the act causing the death was necessary and there were reasonable grounds for doing so.

Mental Impairment Defence

A person accused of murder or manslaughter can raise a defence of mental impairment under s28 Criminal Code 2002 (ACT) if at the time of the offence they did not know the nature and quality of the conduct, or did not know the conduct was wrong, or could not control their conduct.

Should I plead guilty or not guilty to a charge of murder?

Whether you should plead guilty or not guilty will depend on a number of factors, including whether you accept that intended to kill someone or were reckless about the possibility of death occurring.

You may accept that you committed the offence, but disagree with part or all of what police say happened. In these circumstances, your lawyer may be able to negotiate with the prosecution to change the facts for sentencing.

Q: Will I be found guilty of murder?

A: This depends entirely on the circumstances surrounding your matter. It must be proven, beyond reasonable doubt, that you caused the death of another person either intentionally, with reckless indifference to the possibility of causing death, or with the intent to cause serious harm.

Q: Will I go to gaol if I plead guilty or am found guilty of murder?

A: If you have entered a plea of guilty or have been found guilty to this offence, the penalty is life imprisonment and a lengthy period of imprisonment is inevitable.

Manslaughter in the ACT

  1. Manslaughter is an offence under s15 of the Crimes Act 1900 (ACT).
  2. Manslaughter in the ACT concerns any unlawful homicide that is not murder.
  3. For a finding of manslaughter to be made, it must be proven that the act of the accused caused the death, but the accused otherwise did not have the mental state of mind required to prove murder.
  4. Manslaughter carries a punishment of maximum imprisonment for 20 years.
  5. Manslaughter will be an offence of aggravated manslaughter if the victim is a pregnant woman or if the victim is killed in circumstances of family violence. In these situations, the maximum penalty is imprisonment for 28 years.

For a conviction of manslaughter, the prosecutor must establish the following:

  • Act Causing Death: That you committed an act that directly led to the death of another person.
  • Intent to Commit the Act: That you intended to commit the act that resulted in death, though not necessarily with the intention to cause death itself.

If you’re facing manslaughter charges, it’s crucial to have skilled legal representation.

What do I need to do for it to be proven I caused the death of another person?

In Canberra, you can only be charged for manslaughter if another person has died as a result of your actions. In the Criminal Code 2002 (ACT), death means the irreversible cessation of all function of a person’s brain or circulation of blood in a person’s body.

Q: Will I be found guilty of manslaughter?

A: This depends entirely on the circumstances surrounding your matter. It must be proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you caused the death of another person as a result of an act that you intended to commit. You can be convicted of manslaughter if you were originally on trial for murder and the prosecution could not prove beyond reasonable that you intended to kill the person, were reckless to the possibility of causing death or intended to cause serious harm to the person. You can also be found guilty of manslaughter if you were charged for murder but were able to satisfy a partial defence such as diminished responsibility or provocation.

Q: Will I go to gaol if I plead guilty or am found guilty of manslaughter?

A: If you have entered a plea of guilty or have been found guilty to this offence, the penalty is a maximum of 20 years imprisonment (or 28 years imprisonment for an aggravated offence). It is highly likely you will be sentenced to a period of imprisonment. Your lawyer will help you navigate the legal process, however, and will work towards minimising the possibility of imprisonment.

Why Choose Hugo Law Group to Defend You

Hugo Law Group is a law firm that is focused on protecting and defending your rights. Drawing on decades of experience, our team of criminal lawyers will guide you through the legal process, providing comprehensive, honest and strategic advice – qualities that give us our renowned reputation.

Whether you want to plead not guilty, you are looking to secure the best possible sentence, or a loved one wants to apply for bail, it is essential to have an experienced team of criminal defence lawyers in your corner.

Seeking comprehensive and practical advice at an early stage will best ensure your rights and interests are protected. Our lawyers will properly prepare and present your case to assist you in getting the best possible outcome.

Contact

At Hugo Law Group, we will clearly explain what your rights and obligations are so that you can make informed decisions about how to deal with the police and the court process.

Even if you have not yet been charged with a criminal offence, you should seek advice from a lawyer at an early stage to ensure that your rights and interests are protected.

Hugo Law Group is the market leader in criminal defence law, providing exceptional representation to people facing serious criminal charges.

As leaders in criminal defence, we know that every story has two sides. We defend yours.

Get in contact with us today or feel free to call us at 02 9696 1361 (Sydney), 02 5104 9640 (Canberra), or 08 6255 6909 (Perth) and find out how we can help you.