This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom - Content Editor - Brisbane

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts. She also completed a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice at the College of Law in Victoria. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.

Manslaughter (ACT)


Murder and manslaughter are among the most serious criminal offences in the ACT. They are strictly indictable offences and must be finalised in the Supreme Court after a committal hearing in the Magistrates Court.

The ACT has several different manslaughter offences, which are governed by the Crimes Act 1900. These offences carry penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment.

Manslaughter

Section 15 of the Crimes Act 1900 provides that a person who commits an unlawful homicide that does not amount to murder is guilty of manslaughter. The maximum penalty for manslaughter is imprisonment for 20 years.

Aggravated manslaughter

Under section 15 of the Crimes Act, a person commits aggravated manslaughter if they commit manslaughter and the victim is a pregnant woman. The maximum penalty for aggravated manslaughter is imprisonment for 28 years.

Industrial manslaughter

There are two offences of industrial manslaughter in the ACT.

Employer offence

Under Section 49C of the Crimes Act, an employer commits an offence if a worker dies in the course of their employment or dies from an injury sustained in the course of their employment and:

  • the employer’s conduct caused the death and the employer was reckless as to causing serious harm to the worker or any worker by their conduct or negligent about causing the death of a worker.

The maximum penalty for this offence is imprisonment for 20 years, a fine of 2,000 penalty units, or both.

Senior officer offence

Under section 49D of the Act, a senior officer commits an offence if a worker dies in the course of their employment or dies from an injury sustained in the course of their employment and:

  • the senior officer’s conduct caused the death and the senior officer was reckless as to causing serious harm to the worker or any worker by their conduct or negligent about causing the death of a worker.
  • The maximum penalty for this offence is imprisonment for 20 years or a fine of 2,000 penalty units or both.

Manslaughter as alternative verdict

Under section 13 of the Crimes Act, when a person is tried for murder in the ACT and it appears their actions occurred under provocation and where the jury would otherwise find the accused guilty of murder, the jury must acquit the accused of murder and find them guilty of manslaughter.

An act occurs under provocation where the act is the result of the accused’s loss of self-control induced by grossly insulting conduct of the deceased towards or affecting the accused. In order to amount to provocation, the conduct of the deceased must have been such that it could have induced an ordinary person in the accused’s position to lose self-control to the point of forming the intention to kill the deceased or to be recklessly indifferent as to the probability of causing their death.

Defences to manslaughter

A person charged with manslaughter in the ACT has a number of defences available to them.

Self-defence

The defence of self-defence is a full defence to any charge of assault or personal violence. In the ACT, the defence is contained in section 42 of the Criminal Code 2002.

A person is not guilty of an offence if they believed their conduct was necessary:

  • To defend themselves or someone else;
  • To prevent or end a person’s unlawful imprisonment;

When an accused person raises the defence of self-defence, the prosecution then bears the burden of proving that their actions were not carried out in self-defence.

Mental impairment

A person charged with manslaughter may argue in their defence that they were suffering from a mental impairment when they carried out the conduct that forms the basis of the charge. The person will be found not guilty under section 28 of the Criminal Code if the mental impairment is found to have had the effect that they:

  • Did not know the nature of their conduct;
  • Did not know the conduct was wrong; or
  • Could not control the conduct.

A person charged with manslaughter may also be able to validly argue the defence of duress or the defence of sudden and extraordinary emergency.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

WHERE TO NEXT?

If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.

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