Charges for Murder in NSW
What is Classified as Murder in New South Wales?
According to the law in NSW, any act (or failure to act) that results in the death of another person is considered a ‘homicide’. Homicides are then divided into two categories: murder and manslaughter. The offences of murder and manslaughter are outlined in section 18 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
Definition of Murder in NSW
The act of murder refers to the intentional killing of a person.
Within NSW, this is outlined under section 18(a) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which defines murder as an act or omission by an accused person, causing death to another person where the death occurred due to the accused person acting or omitting to act with reckless indifference to human life, or with an intention to kill, or an intention to inflict grievous bodily harm.
An individual can also be found to have committed murder if they have caused the death of another person in an attempt to commit, during or immediately after a crime, punishable by imprisonment for life or for up to 25 years.
What is the legislative code for murder in NSW?
In NSW, the offence of murder or homicide offence is outlined under section 18 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which provides the legal definition and qualifying circumstances of the murder.
Section 19 (A) of the Crimes Act 1900 outlines punishments for murder in NSW. This specifies if an individual is found guilty of murder, they are liable to life imprisonment which in NSW refers to the term of that person’s natural life.
Qualifying Circumstances of Murder in NSW
In order for an individual to be found guilty of Murder, the act they have committed must fulfil the qualifying circumstances outlined within the Crimes Act.
Under section 18 of the Crimes Act 1900, an individual can only be found guilty of murder in the following circumstances:
- The accused intended to kill
- Their actions or failure to act deliberately caused another person’s death
- Intent to inflict grievous bodily harm
- The accused deliberately caused ‘grievous bodily harm’, which resulted in the other person’s death
- Reckless indifference to human life
- Encompasses situations where the accused knew, or should have known, that their actions would likely result in a person’s death
- Commission of a crime punishable by life imprisonment or imprisonment for 25 years
- An individual can be found guilty of murder if they caused another person’s death whilst committing another serious criminal offence
Section 18 (1)(b) specifies any other acts of punishable homicide shall be taken to be manslaughter.
Murder vs Manslaughter: What is the difference between murder and manslaughter in NSW?
Any unlawful killing under any circumstances that don’t meet the legal definition of murder amounts to manslaughter. There are two categories of manslaughter defined as
Where an intentional act causes a person’s death
Where the act that caused a person’s death was unintentional. This usually requires some kind of gross negligence on behalf of the accused.
The primary distinction between an act of murder and an act of manslaughter is intent. If the accused has unintentionally caused the death of another person, they will most likely be charged with manslaughter.
The lowest form of intention that the prosecution may prove for the accused to be charged with murder is ‘reckless indifference to human life’.
If an individual is found guilty of manslaughter, they are liable to a maximum sentence of 25 years imprisonment.
In order for an individual to be charged with murder, the jury must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the act of the accused was a “substantial or significant cause of death”.
If the accused’s actions were not the substantial cause of the death, or there has been a break in the chain of causation, the accused may avoid a finding of guilt.
Charges for Murder in NSW
In NSW, any act (or failure to act) that results in the death of another person is considered ‘homicide’. Homicides in NSW are then classified as either murder or manslaughter.
Charges of either murder or manslaughter each cover a broad range of acts or negligence that can be proven to have resulted in the death of another person.
Murder charges carry a more severe penalty, as they are classified as more serious within the legal system due to the element of intention. As such, if you are charged with murder, you are liable to the maximum sentence available in NSW of life imprisonment.
If an individual commits an act with the intent of murder but fails to do so due to external forces, they can be charged with attempted murder.
This is outlined under sections 27-30 of the Crimes Act 1900 and carries a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment. These offences also carry a 10-years standard non-parole period.
What Happens When You're Charged with Murder?
If you have been accused of a murder charge, it is integral you contact a specialised criminal lawyer such as the team at Hamilton Janke lawyers to advise you throughout the legal process to receive the best possible outcome.
Murder charges are first mentioned in the local court. The matter will then be committed to the Supreme Court and progress to either sentencing or trial. Due to the severity of the offence, murder charges are finalised in the supreme court.
If an individual pleads not guilty, the case will go to trial, where the defence and prosecution have the opportunity to present their case. This will usually be heard before a panel of 12 jurors that will determine the guilt of the accused based on the facts of the case.
Defences for Murder in NSW
Within NSW, there are various legal defences to murder which, if successful, can act as a complete defence resulting in an acquittal or a partial defence resulting in a lesser sentence or a lesser charge for the accused.
An experienced criminal defence lawyer will be able to advise you on which defences are suitable for your circumstances. These include, but are not limited to:
Self Defence – A person is not guilty of a criminal offence if they killed a person in self-defence. This means the individual acted to defend themselves, another person or property.
Extreme Provocation – The actions of the accused were in response to another person’s conduct that caused an ordinary person to lose self-control to the extent of intending to kill or cause grievous bodily harm.
- As of 2012, the actions of the deceased must constitute a serious indictable offence to amount to provocation
Mental Impairment – The court accepts that the accused had a ‘substantial impairment because of mental health impairment or cognitive impairment when they committed the offence
Duress – defendant was under the threat of death or serious harm to themselves, their family or others
Pleading Not Guilty to Murder Charges NSW
If you wish to dispute or defend the charges against you, you can enter a plea of not guilty and your case will progress to trial. As a serious indictable offence, your matter will be finalised in the supreme court and generally by a judge and jury.
In these circumstances, the prosecution and defence can present their case to the jury, who will determine the guilt of the accused. Due to the burden of proof in the NSW legal system, if you plead not guilty, you will not be found guilty unless the prosecution can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you have committed all the elements of the offence.
Pleading Guilty to Murder Charges NSW
If you choose to plead guilty to murder charges in NSW, this means you agree with the charges made against you and take responsibility for the offence. In these circumstances, your matter will progress to sentencing, where the judge will assess the case’s individual circumstances to determine an appropriate punishment.
As murder is liable to life imprisonment, entry of a guilty plea is not eligible for a discounted sentence. However, entering a guilty plea early may be seen as a mitigating factor during sentencing by demonstrating responsibility and remorse.
Often the defence and prosecution enter plea bargaining negotiations to reduce the number of cases going to trial. This may enable you to enter a guilty plea for a lesser charge, such as manslaughter, which carries a lower maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment.
What is the sentence for a murder charge?
Section 61 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW) allows a judge to sentence an individual with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if they are found guilty of murder.
The accused will only receive a life sentence for murder if:
- The accused is found guilty of murder, AND
- The prosecution can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the level of criminality in the case was so extreme that only life imprisonment would constitute appropriate punishment.
In sentencing for murder, the judge can exercise judicial discretion and evaluation of various factors to assess the extent of criminality. Some of these factors include but are not limited to:
- Degree of premeditation
- If there was any provocation
- The extent of violence used leading up to, during and after the murder
If a judge decides not to impose the maximum penalty of life imprisonment, the judge will sentence the accused to an imprisonment sentence consisting of a non-parole period followed by a parole period.
In NSW, the standard non-parole period for murder is 20 years.
Burden of Proof: What Evidence is Needed to Charge Someone?
As a criminal matter, the burden of proof for charges of murder rests with the prosecution.
This means that for a conviction to occur, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant:
- Caused the death of another person
- Did so by way of a voluntary act or omission
- Did so with the intention to kill or inflict grievous bodily harm, or with reckless indifference to human life, or during or immediately after the commission of an offence punishable by the maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.
If the prosecution is unable to prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, you will be acquitted, and the charge against you will be dismissed.
Need the Best Criminal Lawyer in NSW?
If you are being charged with criminal offences such as murder in NSW, it is vital that you seek legal advice and legal representation. This is one of the most serious criminal offences you can face. Our experienced criminal lawyers will be able to advise you on how to proceed and assist you through every step of the process. Contact our expert Criminal Lawyers now
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