Criminal Law

Murder, manslaughter and homicide – QLD

Many people are often confused by the terms homicide, murder and manslaughter. In Queensland, offenders found guilty of any of these offences will face a life-changing legal battle and if found guilty will face imprisonment.

Here is a brief explanation of the terms:

What is homicide?

Homicide is a broad term used to explain the killing of one person by another.  It may or may not be illegal, and there are different categories that then fall under homicide. For example, a justifiable killing by a soldier, police officer or in self-defence is considered a lawful homicide. Murder and manslaughter also fall under this definition but are categorised as unlawful homicides.

What is murder?

Murder is the willful killing of a person, either intentionally or with reckless indifference to life. In Australian, a person found guilty of committing a murder can be sentenced to the maximum penalty of life in prison. This will typically mean the guilty person will serve at least 20 or 25 years in prison without parole, after which they can be considered for release.

What is important to note is that dangerous driving which results in death does not fall into this category and carries a less severe penalty.

What is manslaughter?

From time to time, you may hear a defendant plead guilty in court to manslaughter rather than murder. A manslaughter charge suggests the crime was unintentional, and was the result of a reckless or careless act, or irresponsibility. Manslaughter sentences are typically less severe than that of murder, which as mentioned previously, is the intentional killing of someone else and carries the penalty of life imprisonment.

What are the defences to murder and manslaughter?

It is imperative you seek highly experienced legal support if facing any of these charges. In the case of murder and manslaughter, there are several legal defences that could be used to secure an acquittal or a better outcome including:

  • Self-defence or defence of another person. The accused must have had a reasonable belief that it was necessary to do what he or she did in self-defence or to defend another person. The force used must be considered reasonable in the circumstances and proportionate to the threat faced.
  • Acting under duress. A person acts under duress when their actions are performed because of threats of death or really serious injury that would cause a person of ordinary courage to yield.
  • Insanity. A person isn’t responsible for an act or omission if at the time they lack the capacity to understand what they are doing or the capacity to control their actions.
  • The killing was not unlawful. As stated earlier, police officers and soldiers can carrying out lawful killings.
  • An ordinary person in the position of the accused would not have foreseen the death of the deceased as a possible outcome of his act.
  • The person is not dead (i.e. death cannot be proven).

I’ve been charged with murder – what are my options?

This article is not providing legal advice; it is only a general commentary and should be treated as such. 

Any person who faces a charge relating to the killing or attempted killing of another person faces a serious legal battle. They will need sound legal counsel and a dedicated team of lawyers behind them to ensure that they are properly defended.

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