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Manslaughter Charges Australia

Manslaughter is one of the most serious offences in the Crimes Act 1900. Any homicide that does not amount to murder shall be taken to be manslaughter.  If you do something that results in the death of another person you can be charged with manslaughter. The offence is not murder because you didn’t intend to kill or seriously injure the victim.

Murder can be reduced to manslaughter in a number of ways. Even where a person has an intention to kill or seriously harm. This includes excessive self-defence, provocation, or substantial impairment by abnormality of mind. Reasonable self-defence is a complete defence to manslaughter that can result in a verdict of not guilty.

You can also be charged with a criminally negligent manslaughter sentence if you do something resulting in the death of another person and were grossly negligent in failing to act.

The difference in sentences between murder and manslaughter is often substantial. 

How do I beat a charge of manslaughter?

There are two forms of manslaughter: voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

Voluntary manslaughter is where there is present in the offender a state of mind that would support a conviction of murder. The act or omission causing death was committed with intent to kill or inflict grievous bodily harm. Or, with reckless indifference to human life. The culpability of the offender’s conduct is reduced by reason of excessive self-defence, provocation, or substantial impairment by abnormality of mind.

The elements for murder are:

  1. You committed an act or omission causing death;
  2. With intent to kill or inflict grievous bodily harm (really serious harm). The necessary mental state must exist at the time of the act or acts of the accused that caused the death of the victim. It is not necessary for the prosecution to prove that the accused intended to cause the death or the injury in a particular way; or
  3. With reckless indifference to human life. You did an act foreseeing that it is probable – as distinct from possible – that death would result from that act; or
  4. The death occurred during you committing an offence that is punishable for life or 25 years.

Complete defences to manslaughter include:

  • Identification – Someone else caused the death of the victim.
  • Cause of death – The actions of the accused were not the cause of death.
  • Self-defence – The law recognises that a person has the right to act in self-defence from a physical attack or threatened attack. So long as the response is reasonable in the circumstances. Self-defence includes defence of another person.
  • Duress – A person is acting under duress when their actions are performed under threats of death or serious injury and those threats would likely cause a person of ordinary courage to yield.
  • Necessity – The common law defence of necessity operates where circumstances (natural or human threats) bear upon the accused. This induces the accused to break the law to avoid even more dire consequences. There is some overlapping with the defence of duress.

Involuntary manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter by gross negligence

The offence of involuntary manslaughter by gross negligence is committed when a legal duty of care is owed to the deceased and the death of the deceased is caused by an intentional act or omission in circumstances which involved such a great falling short of the standard of care which a reasonable person would have exercised, and which involved such a high risk that death or grievous bodily harm would follow, that the doing of the act merits criminal punishment.

The courts will find you guilty of the offence of Manslaughter by gross negligence if the police cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt:

  1. You had a duty of care to the deceased.
  2. There was negligence on your part in that your act was in your breach of that duty of care; and
  3. Your act caused the death of the deceased; and
  4. The act merits criminal punishment because:
    • It fell so far short of the standard of care which a reasonable person would have exercised in the circumstances; and
    • Involved such a high risk that death or really serious bodily harm would follow; and
    • The degree of negligence involved in the conduct is so serious that it should be treated as criminal conduct.

Involuntary manslaughter by unlawful and dangerous act

The act of Involuntary manslaughter by unlawful and dangerous act is committed when death is caused by an act which is both unlawful and dangerous. It is not necessary that you were aware that the act was dangerous. Provided that a reasonable person would have appreciated that the act was one which in the circumstances, exposed others to the risk of serious injury.

You will be found not guilty of the offence of Manslaughter by unlawful and dangerous act if the police cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt:

  1. Your act caused the death of the victim; and
  2. The act was deliberate; and
  3. The act was an unlawful and dangerous one.

If the judge is of the opinion that, having regard to all the circumstances, a nominal punishment would be sufficient, they may discharge the jury from giving any verdict. Such discharge shall operate as an acquittal.

Pleading Guilty to Manslaughter Charges

If you agree that you have committed the offence, and the police are able to prove so, it is best to plead guilty. You will normally receive a discount on your manslaughter sentence, and it will demonstrate remorse and contrition. It may also be the case that one of our experienced solicitors can negotiate with prosecutors for you to plead guilty to less serious facts or even a less serious charge.

Manslaughter Sentence Australia 

Manslaughter charges carry serious jail time.  The punishment for manslaughter in Australia is a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment in the Supreme Court.  This penalty is typically reserved for the worst offenders.   

How many years for involuntary manslaughter will depend on the circumstances.   The maximum penalty is 25 years imprisonment.  However, sentences vary greatly due to the diverse range of circumstances. It is advisable that you contact one of our senior lawyers such as Mr Joseph Correy or Mr Deng Adut to ensure that you get the most lenient manslaughter sentence possible. 

You can read about all the sentencing options that a court has, including having no conviction recorded.

Why choose Australian Criminal Law Group?

Our criminal lawyers are experts at obtaining the best outcome possible for manslaughter offences. For these offences, a good lawyer can be the difference between a conviction and no criminal record and freedom or jail. Read more about our Sydney Criminal Lawyers here.

To discuss your Manslaughter charge, call Australian Criminal Law Group at our Sydney, Parramatta, and Blacktown offices or make a website inquiry today.


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