The Law, Defences and Penalties for Attempted Murder in New South Wales

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Small creek

A man has been charged with attempted murder after allegedly holding a New South Wales police sergeant’s head under water in a creek. 

It is further alleged that the man, 33-year old Ronald Charles Canning from Queensland, only stopped holding the officer’s head under water after a good Samaritan intervened and managed to help free the officer. 

The incident occurred earlier this week in Murwillumbah, a small town on the New South Wales far north coast, just south of the Queensland border.  

It happened after the officer, who was patrolling the town on foot, noticed the man with a woman who appeared to be suffering from fresh injuries.

According to the police, “[a]fter stopping to check on the woman’s welfare, the officer conducted checks on the man, which revealed he had an outstanding warrant.”

The officer attempted to arrest the man, before the suspect attempted top flee by running towards nearby creek.

The pair struggled when the officer caught up and the man ultimately got the better of him and proceeded to force the officer’s head under water. 

The man was arrested after the member of the public intervened.

He was conveyed to the police station by other attending officers, where he was formally charged with attempted murder.

The officer was taken to hospital with water in his lungs and is now recovering at home. 

Offences of intent to murder and attempted murder in New South Wales

Sections 27 to 30 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) contain offences relating to intent to murder and attempted murder in New South Wales.

Each of these offences attract a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.

Each also carry a ‘standard non parole period’ (SNPP) of 10 years in prison.

An SNPP is a guidepost or reference point for the sentencing judge when determining the minimum term a person must spend in prison before being eligible to apply for release on parole.

Acts done to the person with intent to murder 

Section 27 of the Crimes Act is titled ‘Acts done to the person with intent to murder’ and requires the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. The defendant administered poison or any other destructive thing to a person, or otherwise caused such a substance to be taken by the person, or wounded or caused grievous bodily harm to the person, and
  1. This was done with the intention of murdering the person.

‘Wound’ means to break both layers of the skin, being the dermis and epidermis.

‘Grievous bodily harm’ means ‘really serious harm’. There is no exhaustive list of what amounts to grievous bodily harm, but the Crimes Act makes clear that it includes:

  1. Any permanent or serious disfigurement,
  2. The destruction of a foetus, other than by a medical procedure, and
  3. Any grievous bodily disease.

Acts done to property with intent to murder

Section 28 of the Crimes Act is titled ‘Acts done to property with intent to murder and requires the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. The defendant set fire to a vessel or anything on it , or cast it away or destroyed it, or used an explosive to damage or destroy a building, or placed or threw any thing on or across a railway, or removed or displaced a sleeper or anything else belonging to a railway, and
  2. This was done with the intention of murdering a person.

Certain other attempts to murder

Section 29 of the Crimes Act is titled ‘Certain other attempts to murder’ and requires the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. The defendant attempted to administer a poison or other destructive substance or otherwise caused that substance to be taken by a person, or shot at, or attempted to discharge a loaded firearm at, a person, or attempted to drown, suffocate or strangle a person, and
  2. This was done with the intention of murdering the person.

This is the offence for which Mr Canning is before the court.

Attempts to murder by other means

And section 30 of the Crimes Act 1900 is titled ‘Attempts to murder by other means’ and requires the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. The defendant engaged in an act other than one that is encompassed by section 27, 28 or 29 of the Crimes Act, and
  2. This was done with the intention of murdering a person.

Legal defences to the charges

Where the defendant is able to raise evidence of a legal defence to an intent to murder or attempted murder charge, the onus then shifts to the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defence does not apply in the circumstances.

If the prosecution is unable to do so, the defendant is entitled to an acquittal; in other words, a verdict of not guilty.

Legal defences include self-defence, duress and necessity.

Going to court?

If you or a loved-one have been charged with an intent to murder or attempted murder offence, contact Sydney Criminal Lawyers anytime on (02) 9261 8881 to arrange a consultation with an experienced defence lawyer who has a proven track record of successfully defending these cases.

Conferences can be undertaken in custody, at one of our many offices across the Sydney metropolitan area and beyond, over the phone or by Zoom.

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Authors

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with 25 years of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Spring 2022.

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