Homicide Charges – Lawyers Sydney NSW

by Criminal Lawyers Sydney George Sten & Co

The term homicide refers to offences that result in causing death.  Homicide charges can often lead to heavy penalties, such as life imprisonment.  It is important if you are being investigated for a homicide offence or have been charged with a homicide offence, contact one of our Criminal Lawyers immediately 02 9261 8640 George Sten & Co Criminal Lawyers have over 50 years experience and can offer you the best criminal defence to your case.

Facing the possibility of being arrested is a frightening experience. Police and prosecutors try to make you feel helpless and alone. If you are arrested or being investigated on criminal charges, your freedom, your reputation – even your life as you know it, could depend on the decisions you make in the first 24 hours.

“The only person you should talk to is an experienced criminal defence lawyer.”

When one person causes the death of another, such offences are usually referred to as homicide offences, and the categories of homicide can include murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and assault causing death. 


Under NSW State law, the maximum penalty for murder is life imprisonment, with a standard non-parole period of 20 years or 25 years for the murder of a child under the age of 18.

In order to be found guilty of murder under the New South Wales Crimes Act 1900, intent to cause grievous bodily harm or reckless indifference to human life is sufficient to secure a conviction for murder.

Reckless indifference to human life is characterised by the awareness of the probability (as opposed to possibility) of the accused's act resulting in a person's death (as opposed to merely resulting in grievous bodily harm).

Felony murder (called constructive murder in Australian jurisdictions) and murder by omission are also recognised crimes in this jurisdiction.

Section 23 of Crimes Act 1900 provides for the partial defence of provocation, and can refer to actions taken by the deceased both immediately before, and prior to, the murder. If proven by the defence where there is a charge of murder, the jury will be directed to reduce the offence to manslaughter. If prior to or at the time of the committal proceedings an offender enters a plea of guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter on the grounds of provocation, and it is accepted by the Crown, they are entitled to a discount on their corresponding sentence.[

However, this is not the case in Victoria, Tasmania or Western Australia - the Crimes Act 1958 (VIC), in Section 3B, states:

The rule of law that provocation reduces the crime of murder to manslaughter is abolished.

In assessing guilt for murder, the intention in the precise method in which death occurred is irrelevant as long as the requisite mens rea and actus reus is satisfied. The relevant actus reus for murder is where an act (or omission) has caused death. The mens rea for murder is:

  1. an intent to kill;
  2. an intent to inflict grievous bodily harm; or
  3. reckless indifference to human life, where the defendant foresaw the probability, as opposed to possibility, of his or her actions resulting in death.
  4. In NSW, a person can also be found guilty of murder if they kill a person during or immediately after the commission of a crime that is punishable by imprisonment of 25 years or more.

For the offence of murder, the prosecution must prove that the person charged had the mental state (mens rea) of either having the intention to kill or to cause grievous bodily harm to another person, or the accused recognised a probability of death. If the prosecution can prove that the accused had the mental state, then they may be found guilty of murder.

Murder cases require the highest scrutiny of available evidence, such as DNA, fingerprints and voice recognition. George Sten & Co has exceptional trial skills and extensive courtroom experience. Our criminal lawyers face prosecution and police on a regular basis, and we will vigilantly defend your case to obtain the best results. We are there every step of the way, from bail applications, committal hearings, advising on possible defences and plea bargains. 

Voluntary manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter is the killing of a human being in which the offender had no prior intent to kill and acted during "the heat of passion", under circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to become emotionally or mentally disturbed.

An accused charged with murder may raise a complete defence that can include self-defence, and if successful, may lead to an acquittal. Additionally, a partial defence may also be raised and if successful, may reduce a charge of murder to voluntary manslaughter. An accused may argue that the act was in response to extreme provocation by the deceased or an impairment of the mind can also be argued, and/or the accused had acted in self-defence, but excessive force was used in relation to voluntary manslaughter. 

Involuntary manslaughter

Involuntary Manslaughter is a homicide that is committed without the intent to kill, but with criminal recklessness or negligence; or a death that results during the commission of or flight from a misdemeanor or felony that is not encompassed by the felony-murder rule.

There are two categories of involuntary manslaughter at common law:

(i) manslaughter by unlawful and dangerous act, and

(ii) manslaughter by criminal negligence.

A helpful general discussion of these discrete types of manslaughter can be found in Lane v R [2013] NSWCCA 317 at [51]–[65].

In the event that the accused caused the death of a person, but lacked the mental state for murder, a charge of involuntary manslaughter may be the result. A charge of unlawful and dangerous act manslaughter requires the prosecution to prove that the accused had caused the death of a person during an unlawful and dangerous act.

Involuntary manslaughter may also encompass actions where an accused exercised gross negligence that resulted in the death of a person. Generally speaking, such charges are the result of a death in instances where an accused had failed to act in circumstances where they were bound by legal duty to act, such as a relationship between a parent and child for example. 

Assault causing death

A person prosecuted for ‘Assault Causing Death’ is liable to imprisonment for 20 years. This increases to 25 years where the assailant is intoxicated. While the definition of “intoxicated” is not clear from the legislation, it indicates that someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.15g/L would be regarded as being intoxicated.

Further, ‘Assault Occasioning Death’ whilst intoxicated they face a mandatory minimum non-parole period of eight years. This is significant because the most manslaughter penalties lie between three and six years non-parole.

That is, this law would on average impose a heavier penalty for ‘Assault Causing Death’ than would have been imposed had the offender been prosecuted for the offence of manslaughter.

If you are being investigated for a homicide offence or have been charged with a homicide offence, contact one of our Criminal Lawyers immediately 02 9261 8640 George Sten & Co Criminal Lawyers have over 50 years experience and can offer you the best criminal defence to your case.


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