Murder and Manslaughter
Murder or Manslaughter Charges Lawyer in Sydney NSW
Murder and manslaughter is an extremely serious criminal offence to be charged with. If you’ve been arrested by the police we recommended you contact us for a consultation so you can get the proper advice that will give you the best defence. We will be able to give you’re the proper advice and inform you of the best way for you to move forward and defend your innocence.
Homicide refers to the unlawful killing of one person by another. There are 2 distinct categories of homicide:
- Murder – the killing of a person with the intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm
- Manslaughter – the unintentional killing of another person
The definition of murder under s18 of the Crimes Act 1990 (NSW) is the committing of an act with the intention to cause death or inflict grievous bodily harm or violence on another person. It’s the most serious criminal charge. If charged with murder there are two options for the offender; pleading not guilty and guilty.
Pleading Not Guilty to Murder
You may plead not guilty to a murder charge if you believe you are innocent. The prosecution must prove two main elements in order to find you guilty:
- There was an intention to kill or inflict grievous bodily harm upon another person
- Your actions or omissions of violence caused the other person’s death
If you believe that the prosecution cannot prove these 2 elements then you can push to have the charges dropped before the matter proceeds to court.
Proving Intention to Murder
It is required that there is an intention to kill or inflict grievous bodily harm. There are 4 different categories that are used to prove that there was the murder or grievous bodily harm was intentional.
- That there was an Intention to kill the other person. This is different from the charge of manslaughter which involves the unintentional or accidental killing of another person
- Intention to inflict grievous bodily harm and also that in resulted in death. Grievous bodily harm type of violence refers to the permanent or seriously disfiguring injury
- Acted with “reckless indifference to human life”. This refers to the fact that you have knowledge that what you did would likely result in the death of the other person
- The person dies while you were committing a serious offence (this can attract the max penalty of 25 years or greater). An example of this is where someone is sexually assaulted and they die during the assault.
Proving Actions Caused Death
The actions or omissions must have been the cause of the other person’s death. To prove this the prosecution will look at whether the action for omission was a “substantial and significant cause’ of the other person’s death. If it is a substantive reason then it may not be sufficient. For example, if someone is suffering from an illness that contributed to death the prosecution will not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your actions caused death.
Defences to the Charge of Murder
Should the matters proceed to court you should be aware of defences that may apply which can explain your conduct:
- Mental illness
- Provocation (charge may be lessened to manslaughter if this can be proved and where penalties are less severe)
If a plea of not guilty is entered then the case will proceed to trial to determine your guilt. You will need an expert team of lawyers for legal advice to give you the best change of proving your innocence. Our team of manslaughter lawyers Sydney are very experienced with murder trials and will be able to instruct you every step of the way to ensure you have the best chance of defending your case.
Pleading Guilty to Murder
If you plead guilty from the beginning your case will proceed straight to sentencing. This is where the justice of the NSW District or Supreme Court determines the type and length of the penalty that you will receive. Pleading guilty at an early stage will usually results in a more lenient sentence. This is due to the fact that the Sydney courts will view your acceptance of guilt as taking responsibility for your actions. A lawyer with lots of experience is highly recommended in this case.
The maximum penalty of murder is life imprisonment. However, this is usually reserved for the most serious offences. Often sentences will be lower than this, but certain factors may increase the seriousness of the offence and attract a harsher penalty while other factors may decrease the seriousness of the crime.
More Information on the Offence of Murder
Murder charges are extremely serious and can also be very complex. You should seek legal advice and as much relevant information possible to best defend yourself from these charges. Our murder lawyers are able to provide you with additional information as well as map out a strategy for your defense. If you would like more information do contact us for a consultation.
Penalties for Murder
The maximum penalty for murder is life imprisonment. Often sentences can be less depending on the circumstances. Depending on your intention and characteristics of the deceased may impact you sentence. For example the death of certain people such as public officers, police officers, emergency service workers, health professionals, teachers and minors may attract a more severe sentence. The average sentence for murder is 25 years and the average non-parole period is 20 years.
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The crime of Manslaughter is defined under s18 of the Crimes Act 1990 (NSW) as the unlawful killing of another person through unintentional or accidental circumstances based of your actions and omissions. This is less serious than murder but still a serious charge to be faced with.
Pleading Not Guilty to Manslaughter
There are four circumstances that give rise to manslaughter. The prosecution must prove at least one of these circumstances was present as a cause of death:
- Death was due to criminal negligence. In other words, you owed a duty to the other person but because of your criminal negligence, it was breached.
- Death was caused by the unlawful and dangerous actions you committed.
- Acting in excessive self-defence that caused the death
- Death was due to an omission or failure to do something
- Mental illness
Pleading Guilty to Manslaughter
If you plead guilty your case will proceed to sentencing. Early guilty pleas will generally attract a lesser sentence as the court will take into consideration that you have taken responsibility for your actions or omissions. This will also means that you avoid a lengthy and costly criminal trial.
The maximum penalty for manslaughter is 25 years, however, this is usually only applied in the most serious cases. The average length of a sentence is 7 years with a 4.5 year period of non-parole.
Different Types of Manslaughter
There are four different elements of manslaughter. To be found guilty the prosecution needs to at least prove one of these.
This is where you owe a duty of care to someone. A reasonable person would have realized their negligent actions would have a high likelihood of causing the death of another person.
The duty arises where:
- The law imposes the duty of care upon you – i.e. driving negligently
- You have a relationship with another person that implies a duty of care – i.e. a teacher and student relationship
- There is a contractual relationship – i.e. employer and employee relationship
- You assume that duty based on your conduct
- You Acted Negligently
Your actions fell short of the duty of care. Courts in Sydney will look at the perspective of an ordinary member of the public. They will also take into consideration how a reasonable person would have acted. A reasonable person is someone of same age and gender and same education and training who is not affected by alcohol.
- Negligent Actions Contributed to Death
The prosecution is required to prove that the negligent actions were the substantial cause of death or at the very least accelerated death.
- The Actions Demanded Criminal Punishment
The prosecution is required to prove that the breach of the standard duty of care deserves to be punished. Again the courts will look at how a reasonable person would have acted and whether there was knowledge that the actions or omission would likely cause serious injury or death. If the negligence is server then it will warrant legal punishment.
Unlawful and Dangerous Act
If unlawful or dangerous acts cause another person’s death it is enough to prove manslaughter.
To prove this the prosecution will need to show:
- The actions were unlawful and resulted in death and that self –defence did not apply
- A reasonable person would have realized their actions could result in serious injury or death
- Show that a reasonable person had knowledge that the actions were dangerous
Self-defence by protecting yourself, property or another person is a valid defence but it must not be excessive based on the surrounding circumstances.
For the prosecution to prove that this was excessive:
- The force used must have resulted in the intentional or reckless killing of someone. It must be shown that the actions was a substantial reason for the other person’s death and that those actions were intentional or had reckless indifference to human life
- The conduct was excessive and unreasonable. The court will look at the situation from you persecution to see if the actions used were reasonable at the time of the offence. If they are shown to be excessive or unreasonable you will need to justify your actions
- That you did not act to defend yourself or another person
Manslaughter by Omission
Omission refers to failing to perform an obligation or some action. For example, a parent failed to properly take care of child and child dies.
Here the prosecution needs to prove:
- You had a legal obligation to care for someone
- You omitted to do some action in line with duty of care. The omission had fallen short of the duty of care that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would have had
- The omission substantially contributed to their death. It must be proved beyond reasonable doubt that your omission was a substantial cause of the other person’s death
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