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  • Home Resources & Technical Articles Criminal Offence Topics (A to Z) Murder and Manslaughter Offences Murder and Manslaughter Offences and Penalties in New South Wales (NSW)

    Murder and Manslaughter Offences and Penalties in New South Wales (NSW)

    Murder is the most severe kind of assault, which may result in a sentence of up to life in jail, with the option of a non-parole period at the court's discretion. The Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) governs New South Wales's murder and manslaughter crimes.

    An unexpected, dangerous, or unplanned conduct that results in the death of another person is understood to constitute a sort of offence known as manslaughter.

    If an individual is convicted for the offence of Murder or Manslaughter in New South Wales (NSW), the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on the results of their national criminal history check in NSW.

    A murder or manslaughter offence is amongst the most serious indictable crimes in NSW and will remain on an individual’s criminal history check result for life.

    Charges of homicide in New South Wales

    Homicide refers to crimes that cause the death of the victim. Homicide crimes are committed when one person is responsible for another's death. A conviction for homicide may result in harsh consequences, including possible life in jail. Australian homicide laws are entirely state-based. They include murder, attempted murder, and manslaughter. The rules governing these offences in the various Australian Territories and States are, in reality, quite similar.

    Murder in NSW

    Murder is considered a serious crime under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) and common law doctrines.

    Murder is described (in Section 18 of the Crimes Act 1900) as any illegal act or omission that results in someone else's death. As per the perpetrator's state of mind, there must have been an act or omission that resulted in death:

    • With a disregard for the lives of others;
    • With the goal of either to murder or to inflict serious physical injury.

    Proving murder

    For the prosection to prove the murder beyond any reasonable doubt, they must establish both the mens rea and the actus reus. The prosecution must establish that the accused possessed the mental condition (mens rea) of either intending to kill or inflict bodily severe (physical) harm on another person or that the accused recognised the likelihood of death. The relevant actus reus for proving murder is established when an act (or omission) results in the death of another person.

    An individual in New South Wales (NSW) may also face murder charges if they kill a person while committing a punishable indictable crime in NSW that entails imprisonment for 25 years or more.

    In Australia, there are four distinct forms of murder, each with its distinct characteristics. Each of the components has to be proven before an accused person can be found guilty.

    If the prosecution can show each of the following factors beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury will likely find the accused guilty of murder.

    • The death of another individual was a direct consequence of the actions.

    Either of the following is true at the moment of the offence

    • Intentionally caused significant bodily damage or permanent disfigurement to the victim; or
    • Because of the accused's conduct or omissions, the other person died, or
    • Despite knowing that their actions may result in the death of another person, the accused opted to carry them out.
    • Someone died while the defendant was executing another crime, attracting up to 25 years in prison.

    If the prosecution can demonstrate clearly that the defendant had a mental state, they may face murder charges. However, if a lawyer engages in early talks with the prosecution, the charge may be 'no billed'. It means the court will dismiss them if police evidence is inadequate to substantiate each part of a murder allegation.

    Attempted murder

    Attempted murder is defined as any act committed by a person in preparation for the conduct of a murder that transcends beyond ordinary planning for any other crime and cannot sensibly be viewed as serving any purpose other than the murder.

    The offence of attempted murder is defined as any act committed by a person in preparation for murder. Such offence should be such that it transcends beyond ordinary planning for any other crime and cannot sensibly be viewed as serving any purpose other than the murder.

    Under Section 30 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) the offence for Attempted Murder in NSW carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.

    Penalty for Murder in NSW

    The maximum punishment for intentionally ending another person's life is life imprisonment, according to Section 19A of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

    You'll remain in jail for the remainder of your life if you are sentenced to life in prison.

    While life imprisonment is the harshest sentence under NSW legislation, it is also the maximum sentence, which implies the court will use it in the most severe circumstances.

    Nonetheless, murder is still punishable by life in prison, with a typical non-parole sentence of 20 years.

    It indicates that a person convicted of murder in the middle of the severity scale will typically serve 20 years in jail.

    The usual non-parole duration and maximum sentence, on the other hand, are only recommendations that the court should follow while examining the crime as a whole.

    If the case's circumstances make the crime more or less severe than the "ordinary" murder case, the jury has the power to impose a longer or shorter non-parole term.

    The court may examine whether or not a person meant to murder the other person, as well as the level of injury and suffering experienced by the victim while sentencing the defendant.

    Possible defences for murder charges

    A person accused of murder may successfully defend themself by raising any of the following defences.


    • Self-defence

    In some circumstances, the defendant will admit that they murdered the victim and planned to kill or seriously injure them, but there existed a legal justification, such as self-defence. Every individual has the right to protect oneself against an assault or the prospect of an attack. However, the defendant's mental condition is critical to this defence. The self-defence argument will depend on proof that the accused felt their acts were required to protect themselves if this justification is asserted.

    In addition, the defendant's actions should be proportionate to the perceived threats.

    The defendant's relationship with the victim may give rise to the defence of self-defence, mainly where domestic violence is alleged. It is critical to highlight that when the defence of self-defence is used, the prosecutor's responsibility is to prove that the defendant did not act in self-defence. Because of how the NSW legal system works, the accused is not needed to prove their innocence.


    • Extreme provocation

    Provocation to the extreme is ordinarily a partial defence to murder. It implies that if established, the finding of murder may be reduced to the alternative conviction of manslaughter.

    Extreme provocation may be used as a partial defence to murder if the defendant:

    • Took action in reaction to the victim's actions;
    • Had little to do with the crime and that the victim's actions were a primary indictable offence;
    • Became agitated as a result of the victim's behaviour;
    • The victim's behaviour was such that an average person may have lost self-control to the point of intending to murder or severely harm the victim.

    It is essential to note that in NSW, nonviolent sexual advances do not constitute serious provocation.


    • Duress

    The accused could justify murder if they acted under duress. When a person murders under duress, such as threats to their own life, the lives of their loved ones, or very horrific harm, a person of average courage will succumb.

    If the defendant asserts duress, the prosecutor must demonstrate that the charged did not act under any extreme duress.


    • Legal justification

    According to Section 18(2) of the Crimes Act, a defendant is not criminally liable if they have a valid reason or explanation for their acts. For example, suppose a surgeon conducts a medical procedure that causes significant injury and death. In that case, the surgeon cannot be found liable for murder as long as there is no evidence of professional negligence.


    • Misfortune

    Section 18 of the Crimes Act states that no one is guilty of murder if they kill someone accidentally.

    Manslaughter in NSW

    Manslaughter is the unintentional but illegal killing of another person.

    Like murder, this crime is governed by the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) and judicially established common law doctrines. Section 18 of the Crimes Act considers all homicides that are not murder to be manslaughter.

    However, a person is not held responsible for being the cause of another person's death under section 18 if the death was caused by:

    • Misfortune/accident; or
    • Any act or omission that wasn't malicious or for which the individual had a legitimate reason or justification.

    Manslaughter may be considered either voluntary or involuntary.

    Voluntary manslaughter in NSW

    Voluntary manslaughter happens when the components of murder have been demonstrated, resulting in a conviction for the crime. However, the actions or omissions that resulted in the death were due to the following:

    • The dead person's extreme provocation, comprising actions or omissions amounting to a significant indictable offence and leading the accused to lose control; or
    • As a result of an aberration of the defendant's thinking, they could not comprehend the consequences of their actions.

    Involuntary manslaughter in NSW

    There are two ways in which involuntary manslaughter can arise:

    • Any deliberate conduct by an accused that is illegal and hazardous and entails a substantial risk of significant injury, which results in the death of another person, is considered a kind of voluntary manslaughter.
    • If a defendant's actions or omissions resulted in or contributed to another person's death due to criminal carelessness, the defendant would be guilty of murder.

    The term "attempted manslaughter" is not recognised under NSW laws.

    The prosecution doesn't need to show that the defendant had a reckless disregard for life or a purpose to murder or inflict severe bodily damage to be convicted of the crime.

    Manslaughter in New South Wales falls into three basic categories:

    • Killing someone by doing an illegal or risky act,
    • Negligence that led to someone else's death,
    • Committed manslaughter in the name of self-defence that was extreme.

    1. Manslaughter resulting from an illegal or hazardous act

    Prosecutors must establish beyond any reasonable doubt that the defendant committed involuntary manslaughter and that:

    • Another individual was put to death by the accused,
    • The accused was responsible for the death,
    • An act that resulted in someone's death was a deliberate decision by the defendant,
    • The act was illegal,
    • The act was risky.

    According to the law, the accused must have known that the claimed "dangerous and illegal conduct" would result in significant damage to someone else.

    2. Negligence that resulted in the death of another person

    To convict, the prosecution must show that the following is true:

    • The accused had an obligation of care for the victim, who died,
    • The accused did something or didn't do anything,
    • Caused or expedited the death of the deceased through their action or inaction,
    • In doing so, the offender or offenders violated their duty of care to the dead,
    • In this case, the conduct or omission constituted criminal negligence and warranted manslaughter charges because it fell far short of what a sensible person would have done in the circumstances,
    • The risk of death or severe physical harm was so significant that it was impossible to ignore.

    3. Manslaughter committed in the name of self-defence that was extreme (excessive force causing death)

    A person is charged with manslaughter rather than murder under Section 421 of the Act if they:

    • Apply a force that results in the killing of people, and

    Even though the person's actions seem unreasonable given the current situation, they nonetheless insist on carrying them through because they are necessary:

    • To protect oneself or another, or
    • To prevent another individual's rights or the freedoms from being unlawfully deprived.

    In the eyes of many, manslaughter laws serve as a catch-all for people whose reckless actions or omissions result in the death of others, even if there is no proof that they intended to kill or inflict significant injury.

    What the police must prove

    The authorities must establish each of the following factors beyond any reasonable doubt to convict someone of a manslaughter charge:

    • A killing committed without malice aforethought or with a careless disregard for human life.
    • Also, they must establish that the accused was the one who committed the crime of killing.

    Possible defences for manslaughter in NSW

    Manslaughter defences include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • Necessity,
    • Duress,
    • Self Defence,
    • Extreme provocation,
    • Accident.

    Other homicide offence

    If you assault another person in NSW by punching them to death, it is a criminal crime (punishable by up to twenty (20) years in prison) under Section 25A of the Crimes Act. In New South Wales, this is known as 'one-punch manslaughter.' Even if the death was unforeseeable, someone might be held accountable for it.

    Which court will hear the murder and manslaughter case?

    Murder and manslaughter are indictable charges that may be prosecuted exclusively in New South Wales's District or Supreme Court.

    Will a Murder or Manslaughter Offence in NSW show up on a national criminal history check result?

    If an individual is found guilty for a murder or manslaughter offence in NSW, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on the results of their national criminal history check.

    A murder or manslaughter offence will remain on an individual’s police check for life and will not be eligible to get expunged from a criminal record check as per the Spent Convictions Scheme in NSW.

    Individuals can obtain a criminal history check online via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.

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