Murder (Australian law)

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Murder is defined in the New South Wales (NSW) Crimes Act 1900 as follows:[1]

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...

Under NSW State law, the maximum penalty for murder is 20 years with a standard non-parole period of 15 years, or 19 years for the murder of a child under the age of 18, and a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole if the victim is a police officer or public official. Attempted murder carries a maximum penalty of life or 17 years imprisonment.[2] 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, as is felony murder (called constructive murder in Australian jurisdictions).[3]Murder by omission is a recognized crime in this jurisdiction. [4]

Section 23 of Crimes Act 1900 provides for the partial defence of provocation. [5] If proven by the defence where there is a charge of murder, the jury will be directed to reduce the offence to manslaughter.[6] 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.[7]

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 any jurisdiction within Australia, the maximum penalty for murder is life imprisonment; this is the mandatory penalty in Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory. Many other jurisdictions (among them Canada, England and Wales, and the Republic of Ireland) sentence anyone convicted of murder, under any circumstance, to life imprisonment. The maximum penalty for murder in the United States (to anyone not sentenced to death) and New Zealand, is also life imprisonment.

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. "R v Royall" (1991) [10]; [9]


  1. ^ Crimes Act 1900 - Section 18 Murder and manslaughter defined
  2. ^ Crimes Act 1900 §§ 27-30
  3. ^ s 18 Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) [1]; see also Ryan v R (1967) 121 CLR 205 Austlii; see also Crabbe v R [1985] HCA 22 [2]; see also R v Munro (1981) 4 A Crim R 67AustLII; see also Royall v R [1991] HCA 27[3]; also Mraz v. The Queen (1955) 93 CLR 493[4]
  4. ^ Taktak (1988) 14 NSWLR 226; see also Stone and Dobinson [1977] 1 QB 354
  5. ^ Crimes Act 1900 NSW s 23 [5]. See also "Davis v R" (1998) 100 Crim R 573
  6. ^ Ibid; see also Stingel v R (1990) 171 CLR 312 Austlii; Singh v R [2012] NSWSC 637 (7 June 2012) Austlii; R v Fahda [2013][6]; see also Moffa v R (1977) 138 CLR 601 Austlii
  7. ^ R v Bryan Steven Johnson [2003] NSWCCA 129 (22 May 2003)[7]; see also R v Won [2012] [8]; R v Sparks; R v D Stracey; R v P Stracey [2010] [9]
  8. ^ Crimes Act 1958 - Section 3B Provocation no longer a partial defence to murder
  9. ^ R v Crabbe 1985. Retrieved 21 January 2015.