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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 the Northern Territory (NT)

    Murder and Manslaughter Offences and Penalties in the Northern Territory (NT)

    Murder is defined as the willful and illegal killing of another person. It is the most severe felony dealt with by the Northern Territory courts and carries a mandatory life sentence.

    Manslaughter happens when a person dies because of an illegal attack, yet the criminal had no intention of killing the victim.

    A person charged with murder in the Northern Territory may alternatively be found guilty of manslaughter if an intent to kill cannot be demonstrated or if the accused can show that they were acting in reaction to provocation.

    Murder and Manslaughter offences in the Northern Territory (NT) are outlined in Sections 156 to 161 of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT).

    If an individual is convicted in an NT court for a murder or manslaughter offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a national criminal record check in the NT. A murder or manslaughter offence will remain on a criminal history check for life.

    The offence of Murder or Manslaughter is not eligible to get expunged from a person’s criminal record check under NT’s Spent Convictions Scheme legislation.

    Murder Offence in the Northern Territory (NT)

    Murder can be described as the act of killing another individual intentionally. An individual can also be found guilty of murder if they intend to harm another person and that person accidentally dies. It is considered the most heinous crime in the Northern Territory, and if found guilty, the offender faces life imprisonment, which is unavoidable.

    Under Section 156 of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT), an individual is guilty of murder if:

    • They were involved in the crime; and
    • As a result, they caused the death of another; or
    • Deliberately planned to harm or kill another person.

    Under sections 158 and 159 of the Act, the charge of murder can be reduced to manslaughter by the sentencing court if the action leading to the death in question happened after provocation.

    It may also be lowered if the defendant successfully proves that their mental capacity was substantially impaired.

    Murder and manslaughter offences are serious indictable offences in the NT.

    Manslaughter Offence in the Northern Territory (NT)

    Manslaughter occurs when an individual causes the death due to reckless behaviour or negligence, but it wasn't their intention to kill.

    An individual being tried for murder can alternatively be found guilty of manslaughter if the court cannot prove the accused motive to kill or if the offender can prove to the court that they were only acting in response to provocation.

    According to section 160 of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT), an individual can be found guilty of manslaughter if they:

    • Take part in the crime; and
    • As a result, it causes the death of another; or
    • If the offender was negligent enough to cause the death of another individual.

    In both instances, whether found guilty of murder or manslaughter, the accused will face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, and the Supreme Court will determine the final verdict.

    Since an individual found guilty of these crimes cannot escape the court's verdict (life imprisonment), the court's primary focus will be determining the time the accused will serve before being eligible for parole.

    Violent act Causing death in the NT

    In 2012, the Northern Territory introduced an amendment to the Criminal Code - Criminal Code Amendment (Violent Act Causing Death) Bill 2012 (NT).

    The amendment was introduced for death situations that resulted from one punch or strike.

    Suppose an individual takes part in a crime involving a violent act against another human being, and their involvement causes the death of another individual. In that case, they will be found guilty of the crime and sentenced to up to 16 years behind bars [CCA, s.161A].

    An individual can be found guilty of this crime even if they did not intend to kill. Their conduct wasn't recklessness or negligence; they were present and consented to the violent act (for instance, two individuals engaged in a physical fight, and no one objected).

    It can be ruled out if the conduct was being done favouring the victim/deceased or part of an activity (like sport), but the conduct has to be justifiable.

    Penalty for Murder and Manslaughter in the NT

    In the Northern Territory, when found guilty of murder or manslaughter, the accused faces a sentence of life in prison. Meaning the court is not discreet when sentencing an individual for murder.

    The court imposes a life sentence with a minimum non-parole of not less than 20 years. In some instances, offenders who are found guilty could receive a non-parole of more than 20 years.

    An individual found guilty of murder in the NT is guaranteed a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

    If found guilty of conspiring to murder, the accused is served a maximum sentence of 14 years. Nevertheless, no mandatory sentence applies to charges of attempted murder or conspiracy to murder.

    In the Northern Territory, manslaughter also carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

    Trial for Murder – Partial Defense of Provocation

    A person found guilty should not serve life behind bars if the defence provocation applies. The defence of provocation will apply if:

    1. The death of another person was caused due to lack of self-control from the accused induced by the deceased towards the accused.
    2. The deceased's conduct was too much that it could have induced a calm person to lose their self-control and result in killing or causing serious harm to the deceased (shameful insulting words or gestures can induce the accused to lose control).

    The defence of provocation may arise whether the deceased's conduct occurred earlier or during their encounter with the accused. However, if the deceased's conduct consists of non-violent advances towards the accused, it may not be regarded as a sufficient basis for a defence of provocation. But it can be considered along with the deceased's other conducts.

    Reckless or Negligent Conducts (including driving dangerously)

    Drunk driving in the NT or reckless driving resulting in death or causing fatal injuries to another person is considered a crime in the Northern Territory. Also, note that if you drive by a motor vehicle accident and fail to stop where an individual is seriously injured or dies is also a crime [CCA s.174FA].

    So, if an individual suffers, dies or is fatally injured due to another person's recklessness, or negligence, they will be charged with a crime [CCA s.174C to 174E]. These crimes were primarily replaced with the repealed crime of the Dangerous Act [CCA s.154].

    Assisting and Encouraging Suicide Offences in the NT

    If an individual is charged with the offence of assisting and encouraging suicide, they will charged under section 162 of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT). The state has to prove whether the person assisted or encouraged another person to kill or attempt to kill themselves.

    If the offence is proved, the accused is liable for a maximum imprisonment of life behind bars.

    Attempt to Murder in the NT

    Section 165 of NT’s Criminal Code Act 1983 oulines that attempted murder is a severe offence attracting a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

    The offence charges any person who attempts to kill another person unlawfully. It also applies if the individual intentionally and unlawfully does any acts or fails to take actions that endanger human life.

    Also, any individual with the primary purpose of causing fear causes another person to receive a life-threatening threat. The individual is guilty of an offence of threatening to kill and is liable to imprisonment of no more than seven years.

    The defence must prove that making such a threat (or causing it to be received) was reasonable in the eyes of an ordinary person in similar circumstances to the accused. Additionally, the defence proves that the threat was not of good courage and firmness for the threat to stand.

    Non parole Periods for Murder in the NT

    When the accused has been found guilty of murder, the court sentences the accused to life in prison. The sentencing court must fix under section 53(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT);

    1. A non-parole of not less than 20 years; or
    2. In certain circumstances, a non-parole period of 25 years.

    The sentencing court can warrant a non-parole of more than the standard 20 years if any objective or subjective factor affects the relative seriousness of the offence. But if the accused offences are too extreme, the court might consider sentencing the accused for their remaining time in jail with no possibility of ever getting out, which means no parole.

    The court can reduce the standard non-parole of 20 years if exceptional circumstances justify why the accused had to take the life. If justified, the court can fix a shorter non-parole period. For there to be exceptional circumstances justifying why the accused should serve less time or a shorter non-parole period, the court will decide by looking into the following matters:

    1. If the accused is a person of good morals and character; and
    2. Unlikely to commit another crime.

    To consider whether the accused is unlikely to commit another crime, the court will have regard to the following matters:

    1. If the accused has a clean record,
    2. If the offender expressed any remorse knowing they had taken a life.

    The court has to produce reasons as to why they have fixed or refused to fix a non-parole period taking all factors into account to make the decision. Failure to comply, the non-parole will not invalidate the sentence they impose on the accused.

    Will a Murder or Manslaughter Offence in the NT show up on a national criminal history check certificate?

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

    A murder or manslaughter offence will remain on an individual’s criminal history check for life and will not be eligible for the Spent Convictions Scheme.

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

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