Manslaughter Charges - Lawyers Sydney

by Criminal Lawyers Sydney George Sten & Co

Manslaughter Introduction

If you have been accused or charged with an offence of manslaughter, then you must contact George Sten and Co Criminal Lawyers as soon as possible. Our law firm only practises in the area of criminal law, meaning that we see matters like yours on a daily basis. The potential punishment if you are found guilty of manslaughter is severe and could be up to 25 years imprisonment. To give yourself the best chance of avoiding or limiting this period of imprisonment, you should engage an experienced criminal lawyer who has years of experience in dealing with such matters. The earlier you get accurate legal advice, the better your chances of a successful result. To arrange a consultation, contact George Sten and Co Criminal Lawyers on (02) 9261 8640 or email us.

What is manslaughter?

Manslaughter can be defined as an unintentional or accidental action that results in the death of a person. It differs to the offence of murder in the fact that murder requires a deliberate and reckless action that results in the death of a person. It is a less serious charge than murder and in some cases, a murder charge may be downgraded to a manslaughter charge.

Section 18 of the Crimes Act 1900 somewhat addresses the offence of manslaughter stating the following: 

  • Murder shall be taken to have been committed where the act of the accused, or thing by him or her omitted to be done, causing the death charged, was done or omitted with reckless indifference to human life, or with intent to kill or inflict grievous bodily harm upon some person, or done in an attempt to commit, or during or immediately after the commission, by the accused, or some accomplice with him or her, of a crime punishable by imprisonment for life or for 25 years. Every other punishable homicide shall be taken to be manslaughter.
  • No act of omission which is not malicious, or for which the accused had lawful cause or excuse, shall be within this section. No punishment or forfeiture shall be incurred by any person who kills another by misfortune only.

While this section does not directly define the offence of manslaughter, it does provide some guidance, which along with common law provides a solid basis for the offence. The High Court decision of R v Wilson (1992) 174 CLR 313 sets out the elements of manslaughter.

Manslaughter can be separated into two categories, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. Each of which will be discussed in further detail below. 

Voluntary Manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter comes about when the act that has been committed does fulfil the elements of murder, however, a defence to murder has been raised and hence the murder charge has been downgraded to that of Manslaughter. Some defences to murder that may be raised are:

  • Provocation
  • Substantial impairment
  • Excessive self-defence
  • Infanticide

Involuntary Manslaughter

This occurs when the defendant has not fulfilled the requisite mens rea for a murder charge. The court will assess whether mens rea exists through the use of an objective test. This test will ask whether a reasonable person would have known that by commissioning an act, they were exposed others to an appreciable risk of serious injury. There are two categories of involuntary manslaughter. These are manslaughter by criminal negligence and manslaughter by an unlawful act.

Manslaughter by criminal negligence

This offence occurs when a person commits an act or omission that carries with it a high degree of risk that it will result in the death of grievous bodily harm of another person and that results in death. The standard of care exercised by the defendant must have fallen far short of that expected of a reasonable person in the same situation.

Manslaughter by an unlawful act

Manslaughter by an unlawful act occurs when the accused commits and intentional and unlawful act, however does not satisfy the mens rea required for murder. The mens rea required to be established for this offence is a reasonable person in the accused’s situation would have known that the unlawful act committed would create an appreciable risk of serious injury.

What is the punishment for the offence of manslaughter?

Section 24 of the Crimes Act 1900 states the maximum penalty for the offence of manslaughter is 25 years imprisonment. You should remember that this prison sentence is the maximum and will only apply in the most serious of cases. Having a professional and experienced criminal lawyer on your side will provide you with the best chances of having a lesser sentence.

As manslaughter is a strictly indictable offence, the District or Supreme Court will hear it.

An example of situation that may constitute manslaughter is a ‘cowards punch’ act of punching another person, where as a result the person falls and dies. Another example is not providing an employee with required safety equipment to carry out their job resulting in their death

What should you do if you have been charged with manslaughter?

If you have been charged with manslaughter, then competent and timely legal advice could mean the make or break of your case. Contacting an expert manslaughter defence lawyer at George Sten and Co Criminal Lawyers is imperative.

Manslaughter is a complicated area of criminal law however our highly experienced and specialised criminal lawyers possess an in depth knowledge of the legal process which will be followed by the courts. Your freedom is one of the most important assets in your life and if you are found guilty of manslaughter, you could lose this asset for up to 25 years. At George Sten and Co Criminal Lawyers, our specialised criminal lawyers will be with you every step of the way, explaining the legal process in plain English to ensure that you always know what is happening in your case. You can contact our specialised criminal legal team on 9261 8640 or email us at If you have an urgent matter, call our 24 hour phone line, 0412 423 569.


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