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Homicide

Homicide, being the unlawful killing of another person, is a most serious criminal offence under Queensland law.  The offences of murder, manslaughter and unlawful striking causing death all carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment (with that penalty being mandatory in the case of murder).

Being charged with a homicide offence carries significant burdens and a conviction for such an offence will, in ordinary circumstances, mean a lengthy period of incarceration.

If you or a family member has been charged with a homicide it is essential that you obtain experienced representation and we invite you to contact Townes & Associates for a cost and obligation free discussion about how we can assist. 

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    Homicide

    s.291 Queensland Criminal Code

    Chapter 28 and 28A Queensland Criminal Code

     

    Section 291 of the Queensland Criminal Code makes it unlawful to kill another person and the balance of chapters 28 and 28A, set out the different offences which might be committed when one person causes the death of another. All homicide offences carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, with such a sentence being mandatory for the offence of murder.

    It is possible to kill another person without committing murder, for example if the killing is done ‘by accident’ it might constitute manslaughter or if the death is caused by an unlawful assault the charge of ‘unlawful striking causing death’ might be laid.

    If you would like to know more about homicide in Queensland choose an offence below for more information.

    Homicide offences in Queensland

    Select an offence from the tabs below for more information including the maximum penalty, common case examples and practical tips. Use the form at the bottom of this page, or the email link above, to get in touch if you have been charged with any of these offences.

    A charge laid under s.302 of the Queensland Criminal Code, murder is the most serious homicide offence under Queensland law and it carries a mandatory penalty of life imprisonment (which cannot be varied of reduced under any law).  In certain circumstances, for example repeat offenders or people who murder police officers there are mandatory minimum non-parole periods which apply to the offence (meaning not only must the court impose a sentence of life imprisonment it must also order that a particular period be served inside jail before the offender becomes eligible for release on parole).

    The mandatory minimum non-parole periods applying to the offence of murder are set out in the table below

    Circumstance

    Non-parole period

    Repeat offence (ether a previous murder or killing of more than one person at the same time)

    30 years

    Person killed is a police officer

    25 years

    Neither of the above apply

    15 years

    The effect of the mandatory non-parole regime is that a person must serve a minimum of 15 years imprisonment for any offence of murder (and thereafter they will be ‘on parole’ for life) unless one of the specific ‘aggravated’ circumstances applies and increases the minimum non-parole period. 

    If you would like to know more about murder in Queensland use the tab headings below to assist you.

    A person is not guilty of murder if they were provoked into the killing, if they were of ‘diminished responsibility’ at the time of the killing, or if they are the victim of an abusive domestic relationship and killed for their own preservation.  None of these defences remove all criminal liability but, instead, reduce the offence from murder to manslaughter.

    It is a complete defence to the charge of murder if the killing occurred in self defence, but only if the defendant believed on reasonable grounds that the killing was necessary to prevent their own death (or severe injury).

    A charge of murder will be heard in the Supreme Court.

    A charge laid under s.302 of the Queensland Criminal Code, manslaughter is the second most serious homicide offence and it is committed where a person ‘unlawfully kills’ another in circumstances that do not amount to murder. Manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment but, unlike the offence of murder, it is not a mandatory penalty and there are no mandatory minimum non-parole periods applying to the offence.  While it is unusual, it is possible for a person who is guilty of manslaughter to avoid serving time inside jail (whereas this is not possible for a person who is guilty of murder).

    Manslaughter is a ‘default’ alternative to a charge of murder in Queensland.  This means that if a person is found not guilty of murder at trial the jury can still convict them of the lesser offence of manslaughter.

    It is possible to commit the offence of manslaughter by negligence in cases where a defendant knows that an act or omission is likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm but they engage in it anyway, regardless of that risk (not with any malicious intent but merely ignoring the obvious risk their conduct poses).

    If you would like to know more about manslaughter in Queensland use the tab headings below to assist you.

    A person is not guilty of manslaughter if they were acting in self-defence when they caused the death of another person, or if death could not be a reasonably foreseen consequence of the conduct which caused it.  The additional statutory defences, like insanity, intoxication and mistake of fact all apply to the offence of manslaughter as well.

    A charge of manslaughter will be heard in the Supreme Court.

    A charge laid under s.314A(1) of the Queensland Criminal Code, unlawful striking causing death is a very serious offence and it is committed when a person ‘unlawfully strikes another person to the head or neck’ and causes their death.  Unlawful striking causing death is punishable by a maximum penalty of life imprisonment though, like manslaughter, that penalty can be varied and a lesser penalty can be imposed.

    If a person is sent into jail when being sentenced for an offence on unlawful striking causing death, they must serve 80% of their head sentence, or 15 years, inside prison before being released (whichever of hose periods is the lesser). 

    The law specifically provides that if a person is guilty of unlawful striking causing death even if there was an intervening at which caused the death – for example the deceased hitting their head on the pavement after being struck and falling unconscious (indeed this is the most common situation in which the charge is laid).

    If you would like to know more about unlawful striking causing death in Queensland use the tab headings below to assist you.

    A person is not guilty of unlawful striking causing death if their strike against the deceased person was not ‘unlawful’ (for example because both parties consented to a physical interaction like a boxing or MMA fight).  Self defence is, by legislation, not a defence to a charge of unlawful striking causing death but the other statutory defences like insanity, intoxication and mistake of fact do apply to the offence.

    A charge of unlawful striking causing death will be heard in the Supreme Court.

    Facing charges?

    If you or a loved one has been charged with homicide, you should contact Townes & Associates for a confidential, cost and obligation free discussion about the situation and how we can help.  Use the form below to get in touch, leave your best contact telephone number and we will give you call back at no cost to you.

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