Murder is one of the most serious criminal offences, with significant penalties to reflect severity of the crime. Due to the very serious nature of the offence, an indictment for murder will be heard in the Supreme Court.
Section 18 of the Crimes Act 1900 states that:
- Murder shall be taken to have been committed where the act of the accused, or thing by him or her omitted to be done, causing the death charged, was done or omitted with reckless indifference to human life, or with intent to kill or inflict grievous bodily harm upon some person, or done in an attempt to commit, or during or immediately after the commission, by the accused, or some accomplice with him or her, of a crime punishable by imprisonment for life or for 25 years.
Every other punishable homicide shall be taken to manslaughter.
- No act or omission which was not malicious, or for which the accused had lawful cause or excuse, shall be within this section. No punishment or forfeiture shall be incurred by any person who kills another by misfortune only.
There are other offences that coincide with murder charges such as attempted murder or conspiracy to murder, all which have relative punishments if found guilty. Crime Statistics Australia also reveal that 16% of homicides are committed during the course of another crime, in which an individual may face additional penalties.
The penalties for murder are amongst the most serious of penalties imposed by the judiciary system. In fact, Crime Statistics Australia states that 82% of individuals convicted of homicide receive custodial sentences such as imprisonment to gaol. Murder convictions also have a standard non-parole period of 20 years imprisonment.
The Crimes Act 1900 states that anyone guilty of murder is liable to life imprisonment. While this is the maximum penalty, convicted individuals will not always receive such punishment. Crime Statistics Australia stated that 2% of convictions may receive a monetary penalty while 18% of homicide convictions receive non-custodial punishments such as Intensive correction orders (ICOs), supervision, community service and behavioural programs.
Studies also show that first-time criminal offenders may receive lesser penalties as opposed to those with a lengthy criminal background. On average, first-time offenders who are guilty of murder receive a sentence of 22 years imprisonment.
Meanwhile, other charges such as conspiracy to murder impose the maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment. Again, first-time offenders with no criminal background may be sentenced to an average of 9.5 years if convicted of this charge.
In order to be found guilty of murder, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following:
- It was the deliberate act of the accused that caused the death of the deceased;
- That the act of causing death was done with an intention to kill the deceased or to inflict grievous bodily harm upon the deceased; or was done with reckless indifference to human life and;
- The act causing the death of the deceased was not carried out in self-defence.
If you tend to agree with these claims, it is advised that you plead guilty. As a result, the Court may discount the sentence which is much more favourable than life imprisonment. Alternatively, as experienced criminal defence lawyers with case wins in relation to Murder charges, Benjamin Leonardo – The Defenders may be able to negotiate a deal with the prosecution team, in which less serious charges and penalties are faced.
If you or somebody you know is facing murder charges, it is advised to contact an experienced criminal defence lawyer immediately.
As some of Sydney’s best criminal lawyers with success in defending similar cases, call us for a FREE first consultation for the most accurate and appropriate advice.
Alternatively, you have the option to plead not guilty, in which the case will proceed to trial and a brief of evidence containing all the information the prosecution team will use to convict you of murder, will be served. If with this information, the prosecution is able to successfully prove that you did commit the crime of murder it is likely you will face the penalties discussed above.
It is important to note that murder charges place a great emphasis on intent, which can sometimes be difficult for the prosecution team to prove. If this is the case, the charges may be reduced to manslaughter.
Regardless, as an award-winning criminal law firm with a 90% success rate and a case win in the Supreme Court for a woman facing charges of murder, we are some of Sydney’s best criminal defence lawyers. If we represent your case, our Sydney based criminal defence lawyers may be able to achieve more favourable outcomes if we are successfully able to negate the claims based on the below defence strategies.
There are a number of defences that our Sydney based criminal defence lawyers may utilise during a murder trial. Some defences provide a full acquittal of the charge in which the defendant will be found not guilty. Other defence strategies only provide a partial defence, in which the charge will be downgraded, and therefore a less serious penalty will be imposed.
Self-Defence: Includes situations where the criminal act was undertaken in order to defend confrontations and harm by an unjust aggressor. Self-defence is seen as a justifiable in circumstances where the accused aims to protect property, themselves or another person from harm by the aggressor.
Duress: Encompasses the use of unlawful intimidation to coerce an individual to commit the offence, which is not something they would usually have done if the intimidation was not present. Such intimidation can take form of harmful threats such as death or grievous bodily harm in which the accused believes that if they do not participate in the activity, the threat will eventuate and they will be at serious risk.
Necessity: The defence of necessity is often difficult to prove, however can be argued in situations where the accused committed the criminal offence as a result of imminent danger by either human or natural forces. In fact, a famous case (R v Dudley and Stephens) demonstrated the necessity defence in which 2 men found themselves facing a murder conviction after being shipwrecked. During the course of the incident, the men had already eaten the last of their supplies along with a turtle they managed to catch. Another man named Parker had gone into a coma, and after believing there was no other way to survive, the remaining man killed Parker and resorted to cannibalism. After the men were rescued it was argued that the actions of killing Parker were done under necessity. Although in this instance they were found guilty of murder, the men were only sentenced to just 6 months in prison.
Automatism: Automatism is defined as an action performed unconsciously or involuntarily in which the defendant was not aware that they were committing a criminal offence. There are two types of automatism defined as insane automatism and non-insane automatism in which insane automatism is affected by disease or illness while non-insane automatism is the affect of a blow to the head or the response from drugs.
Mental Illness (Insanity Defence): As per the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990, a defence of mental illness can be raised if it can have proved that the accused was mentally ill at the time of the offence. If it can be proved that the individual suffered from severe mental illness such as psychoses, schizophrenia or bipolar disease, that would impact their ability to judge their actions, the jury will return a special verdict of “not guilty y reason of mental illness”. In these circumstances, the Court may order behavioural programs or detainment at treatment facilities.
Provocation: Relates to situations and events which causes a reasonable person to lose self-control, therefore committing a criminal act as a result. In this instance, the charge will then be reduced from murder to manslaughter.
Battered Person Syndrome: Classified as a subcategory of post traumatic stress disorder, battered person syndrome typically occurs in abusive relationships and domestic violence cases. Often, this ongoing abuse and trauma results causes the individual to fear leaving the abusive relationship and normal patterns of behaviour or thought may be impacted. It is also important to note that often if the accused suffers battered person syndrome and has committed a crime such as murder, the act does not always necessarily take place when the accused is under imminent threat of being harmed, therefore self-defence is not viable.
Due to the very serious nature of the offence, an indictment for murder will be heard in the Supreme Court. As a Sydney based criminal law firm with extensive experience in representing clients throughout various Courts in NSW including the Supreme Court, clients can be confident that our team has the ability to effectively handle your case.
If you or someone you know is facing charges of murder, call our expert team now for a FREE first consultation.