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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 South Australia (SA)

Murder and Manslaughter Offences and Penalties in South Australia (SA)

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Murder and manslaughter, which constitute homicide, are two of the most severe criminal offences for prosecuting a person. Each State and Territory in Australia has its own laws governing murder and manslaughter.

In South Australia (SA), Murder and Manslaughter offences are addressed under sections 12 and 13 of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA).

If an individual is convicted for a murder or manslaughter offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check. A murder or manslaughter offence will remain on a nationally coordinated criminal history check for life.


Murder, as defined in section 11 of the of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA), is a criminal offence that carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The prosecutor must convince a court beyond any reasonable doubt of the following to convict someone of murder:

  • The victim has passed away;
  • The defendant's conduct had a crucial role in their demise;
  • The defendant meant to kill or inflict serious bodily injury on the target, or knew that their conduct would almost certainly result in death or severe injury, or would endanger another person with utter disregard for their life;
  • The defendant committed illegal conduct.

While murder is often the consequence of an accused's positive action, it may also occur due to an omission in certain circumstances. A case in point is when a parent abandons their child to die of starvation.

What are some examples of what might be seen as murder?

For examples of conduct that may be seen as murder, consider the following:

  • The close-range shooting of a person in the head or chest;
  • Purposely depriving your child of food causing their death;
  • Destroying or blowing up a structure without first checking to see whether anybody was inside;
  • Pushing someone over a cliff.

What does the prosecution have to establish?

The prosecutors must establish each of the following beyond any reasonable doubt to convict someone of murder:

  • That accused committed the act or declined to do an act willingly that would have prevented someone from dying; (voluntariness),
  • That the conduct, or lack of acting, ended in the victim's death; (causation); and

That the offender:

  • Intended to kill; or
  • Intentionally intended to do significant physical damage; or
  • Was reckless enough to cause death; or
  • Was careless enough to do significant physical injury.

Penalty for Murder in South Australia (SA)

The indictable crime of Murder imposes a mandatory life sentence in South Australia. [Section 11 of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA)].

Conspiring to commit murder

To plot or agree to take someone's life, seek, urge, convince, or try to sway another individual to kill another individual.

Conspiracy to kill or instigate the murder of some other person is a crime under section 12 of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA). Conspiracy to commit murder carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Acts of violence during the commission of an indictable offence

A person who murders another person through conscious acts of violence (e.g. an assualt offence) in the conduct or facilitation of a severe indictable offence can be found guilty of murder under section 12A of Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA). The offence is punishable by ten years or more incarceration.

Murder through omission

While murder is often the outcome of certain acts, the law recognises that a person might be charged with murder for acts they failed to do. It is known as murder by omission. It happens when the defendant is obligated to undertake a specific act and is aware (and entirely agrees) that failing to do so would most likely end in death or serious bodily injury.

Examples of circumstances in which a person might have a positive responsibility to act are uncommon but include the following:

  • When parents abandon a child in their care and let them die of hunger (R v Gibbins, 1918, 13 Cr App R 134);
  • When a defendant puts a person at risk due to unlawful conduct they perform, they presumably owe it to the victim not to leave them in danger.

In R v Taber (2002) 56 NSWLR 443, the offenders battered, shackled, and gagged the plaintiff (an old lady living alone) before abandoning her in her home to die. Despite making phony phone calls to emergency authorities, they took no extra measures to ensure their victim received treatments. The lady died of dehydration roughly one and a half weeks after they abandoned her. The jury had the alternative of convicting the offenders of murder by omission, which they did. The higher court subsequently vacated their sentences after appealing. They were declared guilty of the equivalent charge of manslaughter during a retrial.

Defences for a Murder Offence

As shown previously, the prosecution must establish a variety of criteria to establish the crime. If an attorney can demonstrate that these conditions have not been met (i.e. that the individual didn't end the life of another (causation), the accused wrongdoer may be released. However, this requires the assistance of a knowledgeable and competent attorney.

One way to do this is to demonstrate that the offender's acts were involuntary. If you can show that your acts weren't voluntary, you may successfully defend a murder accusation. Such proofs can include:

  • Accident;
  • Reaction; or
  • Consciousness impairment.

Other possible defences to a murder accusation include the following:

  • The claim that the accused person did not do it, or they did not fail to perform any act that would have prevented the death;
  • To prove that the accused was unaware that death was a possibility;
  • The accused acted in self-defence;
  • The accused committed the deed out of necessity; or
  • The accused committed the deed under duress.


Manslaughter is a word that refers to killings that do not qualify as murder. In South Australia (SA), you will may convicted of manslaughter if you killed another person but:

  • You did not mean to do so, or;
  • Did not aim to cause them serious bodily injury.

Where murder is accused, manslaughter is sometimes left to the court as an option to it., manslaughter is classified into two major categories: voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Thus, manslaughter may be intentional or accidental.

Voluntary manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter occurs when a death occurs due to an offence that would generally constitute murder, but extenuating factors, such as provocation, mitigate the accused's responsibility.

Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter is classified into two categories.

  1. Manslaughter by a dangerous and illegal act

This type of involuntary manslaughter occurs when one causes death by doing illegal and hazardous conduct without deliberately trying or being irresponsible enough to cause death or severe bodily damage.

  1. Criminal Negligence Manslaughter

Manslaughter by criminal negligence occurs when a person does a dangerous act while failing to meet a reasonable level of care but not intending to kill.

What does the prosecution have to establish?

The prosecutor's burden of proof varies according to the kind of manslaughter prosecution.

For Manslaughter by Criminal Negligence, the prosecutors must demonstrate that the accused defendant intended to do the conduct that caused the victim's death, under conditions that fall below reasonable standard of care. It then compels them to consider whether a sensible person in the accused offender's situation (considering their age, education, and knowledge, for example) would've done whatever they did. It is tough to establish such factors, which leaves several routes open for competent attorneys to defend this effectively.

Voluntary manslaughter becomes an offence only when a defence is asserted against a murder charge. Thus, if an attorney successfully demonstrates that you conducted an act of self-defence that led to the victim's death, charges of voluntary manslaughter may arise.

Examples of manslaughter

Manslaughter includes and is not limited to the following:

  • Punching somebody to the floor and prompting their death;
  • Accidentally killing someone while trying to hunt or engaging in other shooting hobbies;
  • Not securing a portion of a worksite led to the death of a coworker.

What Court in South Australia (SA) will Hear a Manslaughter case?

When an indictable offence of this magnitude has been brought against the defendant, the case will first begin in the South Australian Magistrates Court. The case will be sent to the South Australia’s Supreme Court (SC) if enough evidence against it is available.

Defences for a Manslaughter Offence

It may be possible for a defendant to defeat manslaughter charges if the following evidence is presented as a defence:

  • That it was self-defence on your part;
  • You acted to protect someone else;
  • You were defending property when you took action;
  • Circumstances beyond your control compelled your behaviour;
  • You were agitated;
  • You were not, contrary to what the accuser says, the one who committed the crime
  • Mental Impairment. As a result of this, the law acknowledges that persons may not accurately determine the nature and effectiveness of their behaviour. If you can prove that you were grappling with a mental illness other than a lack of self-control or emotional instability, you may be able to defend yourself against this claim. Such circumstances may involve:
  • Hyperglycaemia;
  • Schizophrenia;
  • Epilepsy of the mind and body;
  • A clogged artery in the brain.

There is a good deal of reason to distrust

Depending on the circumstances of the case, defending against a murder or manslaughter allegation may be by expressing reasonable doubt about the prosecution's evidence. It might be because of discrepancies in the evidence or a lack thereof. If the court isn't convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that the alleged offender committed all of the components of the crime, it must declare the accused innocent.

Will a Murder or Manslaughter Offence show up on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check?

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

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


Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) -

R v Gibbins, 1918, 13 Cr App R 134 -

R v Taber (2002) 56 NSWLR 443 -

Legal Services Commission of South Australia (Murder) -

Legal Services Commission of South Australia (Manslaughter) -

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