Article Title:Backgrounder: Murder and manslaughter
Author or Credit:Craig Young
Published on:14th June 2007 - 02:37 pm
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Story ID:4509
Text:For the benefit of non-lawyer readers, I thought I'd provide a general guide to criminal law on murder and manslaughter. This is meant as a general comment, and doesn't refer specifically to any ongoing case. Several clauses of the Crimes Act 1961 cover the offences of murder and manslaughter. Under Section 158 of the Crimes Act, homicide is defined as the killing of one human being by another. In the context of murder, Section 167 (a) of the Crimes Act applies. It notes that it must be proven that an assailant has deliberately intended to cause the death of another human being. Section 167 (b) further notes that the effect of the attack must be sufficient to meet the criteria of serious or severe grievous bodily harm, possibly ending in death due to severity of injuries sustained by the victim. Reckless disregard for the life of anyone else collaterally caught in an assault or attack meant for another is also defined as murder- Section 167 (c). Charges will still apply if the assailant knew that there was a risk of severe grievous bodily harm possibly ending in death to others, but carried on their assault or attack regardless of that risk. Finally, if there was severe grievous bodily harm possibly ending in death in the context of another crime, such as robbery, burglary or another murder, then murder charges and possible convictions on that basis may also result. Manslaughter differs from murder in that the alleged victim is alleged to have acted in terms that 'provoked' the assault, which may lead to mitigation of imprisonment penalties in comparison with those for murder. Feminists and LGBT rights activists are sceptical about the current scope of provocation defence for different reasons. In the context of prolonged domestic violence, feminist lawyers and activists have argued that if a battered partner snaps and kills her (or his) partner as a consequence of such an ordeal, then that should be classed as provocation. I have kept this gender neutral, as I am aware of one case in which a brutalised gay partner underwent a similar period of prolonged domestic assault identical to that experienced by many heterosexual women in severely dysfunctional relationships. In the case of 'homosexual panic defence,' LGBT activists and legal scholars argue that it is based on spurious grounds that are not based on reputable trauma or abuse-related clinical studies, and should not be available as a defence of provocation. Manslaughter is specified in Section 169 (a) of the Crimes Act 1961. Provocation is defined as something that would lead an ordinary person to lose self-control, and applies where this can be ascertained to have happened. It should be noted that this is a question of law, for a judge to determine, as opposed to a jury. The judge needs to decide whether the provocation was sufficiently "weighty or grave" to present a "credible narrative of cause that led to the effect of loss of self-control. The above clause was more or less codified in R v Ronganui, (2000). Backgrounder: Deposition hearings What is a deposition? This occurs when a preliminary statement or declaration is made by an official under oath, which is then recorded for further use in consequent court settings. Due to the Arthur Allen Thomas miscarriage of justice cases in the mid-seventies, and similar high profile cases since then, there is a common law (non statutory) obligation for the prosecution to share relevant material or scientific evidence with defence counsel. In one influential British case, R v Ward (1993), a female IRA bombing suspect was found guilty when previous interviews had witnessed her declaration of innocence, and medical evidence of psychosis was ignored, as was the professional opinion of experienced detectives, and psychiatrists. Craig Young - 14th June 2007    
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