Murder is an offence under section 18(1)(a) of the Crimes Act 1900 which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Section 18(1)(b) makes clear that every other punishable homicide is considered manslaughter, an offence which carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.
Murder – what does the prosecution have to prove?
The law states that you can only be found guilty of murder in the following situations:
- Where you intended to kill the other person:
This means that you must be shown to have deliberately caused the other person’s death through your actions or failure to act.
- Where you intended to inflict grievous bodily harm upon the other person:
This means that you must be shown to have deliberately caused ‘grievous bodily harm’ to another person, which led to their death. Grievous bodily harm means ‘really serious harm,’ including permanent or serious disfigurements, such as broken bones and internal organ damage.
- Where you acted with ‘reckless indifference’ to human life:
This refers to situations where you knew, or should have known, that your actions or omissions would probably result in another person’s death.
- Where the other person died while you were committing a serious offence:
You can also be charged with murder if you caused another person’s death while committing another serious offence – for example, if you kill someone during the course of a sexual assault.
Defences to murder
It is important to be aware that section 18(2) makes clear that:
(a) No act or omission which was not malicious, or for which the accused had lawful cause or excuse, shall be within this section, and
(b) No punishment or forfeiture shall be incurred by any person who kills another by misfortune only.
Self-defence is also a complete defence to murder.
What is the penalty for murder?
Section 19A provides the maximum penalty for murder, which is life imprisonment – however this is the absolute maximum and only applies in the most serious murder cases.
Specific sections dealing with offences involving unlawful killing
Various other sections in the Crimes Act deal with murder in specific situations. You can click on the below links for more information:
- Section 19B – Murder of Police Officers
- Sections 20, 21 and 22 – Murder of a Child
- Section 22A – Infanticide
- Sections 27, 28, 29 and 30 – Attempted Murder
- Section 23 – Defence to Murder – Provocation
- Section 23A – Defence to Murder – Substantial Impairment
If you or a loved-one are suspected of murder, call Sydney Criminal Lawyers 24/7 on (02) 9261 8881 to arrange a free first conference with an experienced defence lawyer who will advise you of your options and the best way forward, and fight to secure the optimal outcome.
Read on for more information.
Section 18 of the Crimes Act 1900, which deals with murder, reads as follows:
18 Murder and manslaughter defined
(1)(a) Murder shall be taken to have been committed where the act of the accused, or thing by him or her omitted to be done, causing the death charged, was done or omitted with reckless indifference to human life, or with intent to kill or inflict grievous bodily harm upon some person, or done in an attempt to commit, or during or immediately after the commission, by the accused, or some accomplice with him or her, of a crime punishable by imprisonment for life or for 25 years.
(b) Every other punishable homicide shall be taken to be manslaughter.
(2)(a) No act or omission which was not malicious, or for which the accused had lawful cause or excuse, shall be within this section.
(b) No punishment or forfeiture shall be incurred by any person who kills another by misfortune only.
Why Choose Sydney Criminal Lawyers®?
Going to court can be nerve-racking, but having a strong and compassionate legal team behind you can make the experience significantly easier to deal with. Here are 12 reasons to choose our multi-award winning legal team:
Proven Track Record of Exceptional Results
Sydney Criminal Lawyers® consistently achieves outcomes which are in the highest percentile of the Judicial Commission’s sentencing statistics for criminal cases.
Our legal team devises effective case-strategies and fights hard to have cases dropped entirely or charges downgraded – saving clients the time, expense and stress of a defended hearing or jury trial.
Where cases nevertheless proceed, our lawyers have an outstanding track record of winning defended Local Court hearings, and complex jury trials in the District and Supreme Courts.
We also consistently win appeals in the District and Supreme Courts (including the NSWCCA) after clients have received unsatisfactory results with other law firms in the lower courts.We are one of the few firms to achieve successful criminal law appeals in the High Court of Australia.
Where our clients wish to plead guilty, we frequently achieve ‘dismissals’ and ‘non convictions’ in cases where other lawyers have advised there is no chance of doing so.
Highest Level of Client Satisfaction
We have the best and most comprehensive client review record of any law firm in Australia.
Regular communication, accessibility and quality service are our team’s highest priorities.
We are committed to thoroughly explaining all steps involved in the criminal law process, providing regular updates throughout the proceedings, and making ourselves accessible and responsive.
We are passionate about providing an exceptional level of service to our clients, and we fight hard to achieve optimal results in the shortest period of time.
Australia’s Most Awarded Criminal Law Firm
We have received more awards and accolades than any other criminal law firm in Australia. Our team has been awarded “Criminal Defence Firm of the Year in Australia” in a number of prestigious and competitive awards programs for several years running.
The awards recognise our exceptional track record of results, our outstanding client service, the high level of satisfaction we achieve, the affordability of our services and our overall excellence.
We want our clients to know exactly how much their cases will cost from the very start. That’s why we were the first criminal law firm in Australia to publish ‘fixed fees’, back in 2004.
We offer fixed fees for most types of criminal cases and services.Our fixed fees apply to a range of Local Court cases such as drink driving, drug possession, fraud, common assault and AVOs, and also specific services such as prison visits, bail applications, appeals and defended hearings.
Unlike many other law firms, our fixed fees are published on our website – which ensures transparency and certainty.
Free First Appointment
For those who are going to court, we offer a free first conference of up to an hour with one of our Senior Criminal Defence Lawyers.
We also offer a free first conference to those who have received an unsatisfactory result after being represented in court by another law firm, or after representing themselves, and wish to appeal.
Specialist Lawyer Guarantee
We guarantee that only lawyers with substantial criminal defence experience will work on your case and appear for you in court.
This ensures our clients receive the highest quality representation from an experienced, specialist criminal lawyer.
All NSW Courts
From Bombala to Broken Hill, our lawyers appear in courts throughout New South Wales – and across Australia for Commonwealth cases.
And we offer fixed fees for most criminal and traffic law cases throughout the state.
Our entire firm is exclusively dedicated to criminal law – which makes us true specialists.
All of our lawyers have years of experience representing clients in criminal cases, and our principal has been certified by the Law Society of NSW as an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist since 2005.
An ‘Accredited Specialist’ is a lawyer who has practised for at least 5 years in a particular field of law (such as criminal law), has passed a rigorous assessment process conducted by the Law Society of NSW, and has been selected by the Specialist Accreditation Committee of the Law Society as an expert in the field.
Accredited Specialists are required to undertake more training each year than other lawyers and must be successful in having their accreditation renewed every year. Specialist Accreditation is the mark of a true specialist.
Our firm’s specialist experience ensures you receive the best possible result, whatever your criminal law case may be.
Results-Focused Law Firm
Our team is passionate about achieving results, and unlike many other law firms, our lawyers do not have monthly financial ‘budgets’ to meet.
The absence of budgets means our lawyers are entirely focused on achieving optimal results in the shortest space of time; whether by getting charges dropped or downgraded at an early stage or having cases ‘thrown out of court’.
Not having budgets also means our lawyers are not under pressure to engage in unscrupulous practices such as unnecessarily adjourning cases or ‘overcharging’ clients – which, sadly, is a common complaint against many other lawyers and law firms.
No budgets encourages regular consultation between lawyers within the firm – promoting an ‘open door’, team environment where lawyers bounce ideas off one another, formulate case strategy together and benefit from each other’s specialised experience, methods, techniques and insights.
The result is a firm which delivers optimal outcomes in the shortest time periods, at the least expense and stress to our clients.
Team of Lawyers Behind You
Our clients benefit from the pool of knowledge that only an extensive team of experienced criminal defence lawyers can provide.
Our lawyers regularly consult one another to stay ‘ahead of the pack’ in the ever-changing field of criminal law – constantly devising, refining and implementing specialised techniques which ensure our clients achieve the best possible outcomes.
A team approach is particularly important when it comes to serious criminal cases such as murder, commercial drug cases, serious and sexual assaults, large-scale fraud, robbery and other ‘indictable’ cases.
In such matters, clients reap the benefits of several lawyers devising and executing case strategies which maximise the chances of having cases dropped or downgraded at an early stage, or ‘thrown out of court’ – often saving clients a great deal of cost, time and anxiety.
Familiar with Magistrates and Judges
Each of our lawyers appears in court on a daily basis, and has done so for years. We have therefore been able to develop an understanding of, and rapport with, magistrates and judges in Sydney and indeed across the state.
Our team’s extensive experience before the courts ensures your case is tailored to the specific nuances of individual judicial officers, maximising the likelihood of a favourable result.
We have offices in locations across the Sydney Metropolitan Area and beyond, including:
- the Sydney CBD, on Castlereagh Street, directly opposite Downing Centre Court,
- Liverpool, directly opposite Liverpool Local Court, and
- Parramatta, near the justice precinct.
We offer free parking at our Sydney CBD and Liverpool locations, and all of our offices are close to train stations and bus terminals.
For those who are unable to attend our offices, we offer conferences by telephone, Skye and FaceTime anywhere around the world.
If you are going to court and wish to arrange a free first consultation, call our 24 hour hotline on (02) 9261 8881 or send us an email at email@example.com.
Not Guilty of Manslaughter
Our client is a 40 year old man from Greystanes in greater Western Sydney.
He lived with his older brother and elderly mother until her death in September 2017.
On 23 August 2017, our client and his brother called an ambulance for their mother, explaining that she had become bedridden and that her food and water intake had decreased.
Following admission to hospital, our client’s mother was found to have a number of bed sores which had become infected. That infection subsequently led to sepsis and our client’s mother passed away 10 days after being conveyed to hospital.
Following the death of their mother, our client and his brother were charged with her manslaughter. The Crown alleged that they had been criminally negligent by failing to properly care for her, and that their failure to provide care caused her death. Both our client and his brother pleaded not guilty.
We successfully reached agreement with the Crown to have the trial heard by judge alone.
The Crown case was that as a result of assuming responsibility for the care of their mother, the brothers were required to exercise reasonable care for her health and nourishment.
It was alleged that in the month before the mother’s admission to hospital, the brothers negligently breached that duty by failing to provide proper care and hygiene for their mother’s bed sores, by neglecting to obtain medical treatment and not providing adequate nutrition and hydration.
It was further alleged that these omissions caused the 72-year old mother’s death because the infection, that ultimately proved fatal, entered her bloodstream through the bed sores.
Our client and his brother did not deny owing a duty of care to their mother. They did, however, deny any negligence in that care and disputed that the infection resulted from any breach on their part.
During to course of the case, our defence team obtained materials which suggested that the mother had full cognitive capacity, and that she had repeatedly refused medical care in the years leading up to her death.
Given the nature and extent of the material obtained, and our successful cross-examination of the Crown’s medical experts – who conceded in court that there were refusals to receive medical care – our defence team made the forensic decision not to call our client to the witness stand.
Rather, our strong position at the end of the Crown case led to our decision to call only one defence witness, an elderly gentleman who had known the lady for several years through their interactions at the local church. The man’s evidence strongly corroborated our instructions and the medical evidence regarding the mother’s history of refusing medical treatment.
The presiding judge found that the Crown had failed to establish that the mother suffered from dementia or lacked mental capacity prior to her admission to hospital. His Honour further found there was no evidence of long-term nutritional deficiency, which was again consistent with our client’s account that he provided his mother with all her meals.
The judge additional found there was no evidence that our client “knew at any time prior to [his mother] being hospitalised how medically significant it was” and that the Crown failed to establish the brothers “exhibited less than reasonable care in failing to procure medical assistance…”
His Honour agreed that the mother was “a conscious patient with full legal capacity.”
He therefore rejected the Crown’s case, and found that a reasonable person in our client’s position should not be taken to possess the medical knowledge and expertise required to care for a person suffering from bed sores.
Our client was found not guilty for those reasons.
Not Guilty of Attempted Murder
Our client is a 39-year-old computer consultant and family man from Sydney’s western suburbs.
The family’s sleeping arrangements were that our client would sleep in a bedroom with his 7-year-old daughter, while his wife slept in another bedroom with their 4-month-old daughter.
It was not in dispute that on the day in question, our client and his daughter had been asleep when our client awoke and put his hands around his daughter’s throat and squeezed, preventing her from breathing. The child was eventually able to scream for her mother, who came to the room and rescued her.
Police were called and our client said, “I just tried to murder my daughter”. They asked “what do you mean by murder?”, to which he replied “I tried to kill her”. He further admitted trying to strangle her to death.
His wife told police he may be suffering from schizophrenia.
Police charged our client with three offences, the most serious of which was ‘intent to murder’, which carries a maximum penalty of 25 years’ imprisonment.
The law states that a person is not guilty of a crime if they were “labouring a defect of reason”, such as suffering from auditory hallucinations and delusional beliefs which caused them to be unaware that their actions were wrong. This is often referred to as the 'McNaughton defence'.
We referred our client to a prominent psychiatrist who confirmed the diagnosis of schizophrenia, and a number of matters relevant to his defence.
We requested withdrawal of all three charges on that basis, but the DPP refused to withdraw all of them, and the matter proceeded to a judge-alone trial in Downing Centre District Court.
Many criminal law firms brief 'wig and gown' barristers when serious cases are set-down for trial, but we are often able to avoid this due to the vast courtroom experience of our specialist lawyers - all of whom are Senior Lawyers with years of criminal defence experience. Our firm’s ability to independently represent clients to a very high standard in extremely serious cases sets us apart from many other law firms, and can save clients vast amounts in legal costs.
Our Senior Managing Lawyer conducted the trial independently, and our client was found not guilty of all charges.
After a person is acquitted due to mental illness, the judge must then decide whether they should be detained in a prison hospital, mental health facility hospital, or released with or without conditions.
Our senior lawyer was able to convince the judge that our client should be released on condition that he comply with a mental health treatment plan involving prescribed medication and regular consultations with his psychiatrist and psychologist. He is now getting the help he desperately needs, while attempting to mend his family relationship and move forward with his life.
High Court Appeal Successful
In the High Court of Australia, Sydney Criminal Lawyers® successfully appealed the triple murder conviction of a 32-year old man from Greenacre in Sydney's West.
The man came to our firm after being convicted by a jury in the Supreme Court of New South Wales in connection with a spate of murders in Sydney's west.
We made an application for 'special leave' to appeal the conviction on the basis of a number of errors of law in the justice's directions to the jury both in the course of the evidence and in his Honour's summing up.
When the matter proceeded to a hearing, the High Court agreed that the directions resulted in a 'miscarriage of justice'.
Their Honours quashed our client's convictions and ordered that the matter be remitted to the Supreme Court for a retrial.
Manslaughter Proceedings Withdrawn
After submitting extensive written 'representations' to the Director of Public Prosecutions and fighting for proceedings to be discontinued, Sydney Criminal Lawyers® succeeded in having all charges withdrawn against a 41 year old Hunters Hill man charged with manslaughter.
Bail for Man Accused of Manslaughter
Sydney Criminal Lawyers® successfully applied for bail in the highly publicised manslaughter case of a 41 year old Hunters Hill man.
The defendant was charged with the involuntary manslaughter of 74 year old Janet May Jackson for allegedly failing to call an ambulance after finding her injured at her home. He was a friend of the infirm Mrs Jackson for 15 years. Mrs Jackson was found dead at home some days later.
The case continues and Sydney Criminal Lawyers® will fight to have the charge withdrawn.
UPDATE: ALL PROCEEDINGS WITHDRAWN
- Sydney Brothers Charged Over Alleged Gangland Murder
- Passenger Charged with Murder After Police Officer Struck and Killed
- What is ‘Reckless Indifference to Human Life’?
- Police Fear Gang War in Sydney
- The Offence of Murder in NSW
- Man Acquitted of Murder Due to Evidence of Police Stitch-Up
- The Defence of Mental Illness in New South Wales
- The Law, Defences and Penalties for Murder in New South Wales