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Manslaughter & Murder

Homicide is the unlawful act of killing another person. Both murder and manslaughter are types of homicide. In Victoria, murder is a common law offence, which is considered to be the most serious offence pursuant to the Crimes Act 1958, that is committed by a person who was found to have caused the death of another person by an intended act or omission. Manslaughter is a common law offence which falls under two categories, being manslaughter by unlawful and dangerous act, and negligent manslaughter. Manslaughter charges are typically committed by an individual who caused death to another person without intending to kill them.


A charge of murder requires that the accused individual intended to kill, or cause really serious injury to the victim. In contrast, manslaughter lacks the element of intent or moral culpability.


Such matters are often complex, emotionally charged, and conceptually difficult. All forms of homicide cases typically require attention to detail and forensic analysis.

Our Criminal Defence Lawyers regularly assist clients and their families with the following charges:

  • Murder;
  • Manslaughter;
  • Attempted Murder;
  • Culpable Driving Causing Death;
  • Driving Dangerously Causing Death or Serious Injury; and
  • Negligently Causing Serious Injury.


The maximum penalty if found guilty of murder is life imprisonment, however, there are alternatives to murder that carry lesser penalties and need to be explored by a Criminal Defence Lawyer, depending on the merits of the case, which include injury charges and manslaughter. The penalty for murder can be found in section 3 of the Crimes Act 1958. Murder trials typically proceed in the Supreme Court of Victoria. In cases of manslaughter, the prosecution must prove that the accused committed an act that was committed consciously, voluntarily and deliberately, caused the victim’s death. Further, the act must have been unlawful. There are two forms of Manslaughter:

  1. Voluntary Manslaughter – where the act is a voluntary act sufficient to constitute murder, but a defence to murder is raised such as excessive self defence, intoxication, or provocation which if accepted reduces the person’s culpability to Manslaughter; and
  2. Involuntary Manslaughter – where there is no intention to cause the death of the victim, but there is conduct by the accused which was an unlawful and dangerous act or by criminal negligence. Criminal negligence occurs when a person causes the death of another through an act or omission that carries with it a high risk that death or grievous bodily harm would follow.


As the prosecution is always well prepared with regard to any murder trial, the accused must equally be prepared in their defence. It is important that you have experienced Murder Trial Defence Lawyers and Senior Counsels (Barrister) at your disposal to defend your case in trial.

Bail in Homicide Offences

In homicide matters, the accused is almost always remanded in custody due to the seriousness of the offence. This means that before the accused begins the process of their trial, their Criminal Defence Lawyer must consider whether or not they have any prospect of being bailed. The type of homicide with which a person has been charged will be a significant consideration as to whether they have any prospect of being granted bail.


For example, a person who has been charged with dangerous driving causing death is more likely to be bailed than a person charged with murder. The reason for this is because the test applied by the Court to demonstrate that there are compelling reasons as to why the accused’s continued detention is unjustified, and the Court will then determine whether the accused is an acceptable risk to be bailed while awaiting their trial.

Preparation & Procedure in Homicide Trials

There are many matters that a Criminal Trial Defence Lawyer must consider when dealing with a case involving homicide. It is important to note that some matters may require immediate attention, such as if the accused appears to have a mental impairment defence requiring assessment by a forensic psychiatrist as soon as practicable, and in other circumstances, there may be a requirement for a forensic expert to provide a report. The importance for the expert to gain access to a crime scene in some cases may impact on the accused’s defence available, or the strength of the defence. Therefore, it is crucial that the accused or their family act immediately in preparing a defence for their case.


Cases involving homicides are generally before the Court for a long period of time. They all start in the Magistrates’ Court and after a series of hearings in that Court they will either progress to the County Court (as is generally the case for matters involving culpable driving and driving dangerously causing death or serious injury) or the Supreme Court (as is the case for murder, manslaughter and attempted murder).


A criminal trial involving a defence to homicide is often a long and complicated process with the accused typically experiencing some pressured to plead guilty. If the accused has a defence available, their criminal trial will often require a substantial amount of time and preparation in the period leading up to trial. The Criminal Defence Lawyer will have time to consider the accused’s case from every possible angle to ensure that their client’s defence is as strong as possible, and that the case being put forward by the prosecution is set out entirely prior to trial.


In many instances, where an accused is not successful at defending their charges in trial, they may have grounds to appeal the decision. While an acquittal is always preferred, the justice system can be imperfect, and miscarriages of justice do occur. For this reason, you require a Criminal Defence Trial Lawyer with experience to advise you of your rights to appeal the conviction, and to continue defending on your behalf.


If you or a loved one has been charged with a homicide offence, call our office and speak to one of our senior Lawyers for a confidential, professional, diligent and compassionate service. Contact the team at Executive Lawyers today on (03) 8376 6209.

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