Crimes Act 1900

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Crimes Act 1900
Coat of Arms of New South Wales.svg
Parliament of New South Wales
An Act to consolidate the Statutes relating to Criminal Law.
Citation 1900 No 40
Date of Royal Assent 31 October 1900
Administered by Department of Attorney General and Justice
Status: Current legislation

The Crimes Act 1900 is a New South Wales statute that codifies the common law crimes for the state of New South Wales in Australia. Along with the Crimes Act 1914 and the Federal Criminal Code Act 1995 (both federal), these two pieces of legislation form the majority of criminal law for New South Wales.

As it is the major criminal law statute for New South Wales, it is an extensive legal document of 582 different sections,[1] which define an extensive list of offences under New South Wales law.

Murder law[edit]

For a person to be guilty of murder, the prosecution must prove the actus reus and mens rea for murder under NSW law.[2] The actus reus (the act) of murder is evident - A causes B's death.

The most culpable mens rea for murder is intent to kill.[3] If A intended to kill B, whether it was premeditated or on the spur of the moment, A is guilty of murder.

Under NSW law, the next most culpable state is intent to cause grievous bodily harm - so if A inflicts grievous bodily harm on B and B dies, A is guilty of B's murder.[4]

The next level of culpability is 'reckless indifference to human life' in which A saw that his actions carried a probability of B's death (for example, driving a truck into a pub as in R v Crabbe).[5] A further qualification in NSW law was held in Royall.[6] For murder, the prosecution has to prove that the accused foresaw the probability of death, as opposed to the probability of death OR grievous bodily harm.[7] In R v Faure the Victorian Court of Appeal described "probable" as meaning "a substantial, or real and not remote, chance, whether or not it is more than 50 per cent".[8]

As long as one of these above mental states is present, and given that the test of causation is satisfied, the intended method of death becomes irrelevant.[9] For example, in Royall, an intention to kill or inflict grievous bodily harm on the victim with an ashtray could be directly linked to her decision, due to a well-founded apprehension of physical harm, to jump out of a window to her death (the actus reus).[10]

The final level is constructive murder (also termed felony murder) in which A kills B (even if unintentionally - the only question that can be raised is whether the act was voluntary or not - see Ryan)[11] during, or immediately after, the commission of a crime.[12]

The maximum penalty for murder is life imprisonment.[13] The Court will use discretion in determining the sentence and will only impose life imprisonment if “the level of culpability in the commission of the offence is so extreme”[14] and it is in the interest of “retribution, punishment, community protection and deterrence”.[15] Life imprisonment means imprisonment for “natural life”.[16] Section 19B mandates a sentence of life imprisonment (subject to some exceptions) if the victim is a police officer killed in the execution of his or her duty, or in retaliation for past execution of duty, and the accused knew, or ought reasonably to have known, the victim was a police officer and intended to kill the police officer.[17]

Manslaughter law[edit]

Where the prosecution cannot establish the necessary actus reas and mens rea elements of murder beyond reasonable doubt, the accused may be convicted of manslaughter.[18] Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 25 years imprisonment.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ CRIMES ACT 1900
  2. ^ See Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 18(1)(a). Available at
  3. ^ See Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 18 Austlii
  4. ^ See Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 4 Austlii
  5. ^ R v Crabbe [1985] HCA 22.
  6. ^ "Royall v R [1991] HCA 27; (1991) 172 CLR 378". 
  7. ^ See, Royall (1991) 172 CLR 378; See also, Solomon v R [1980] 1 NSWLR 321.
  8. ^ 'Faure [1999] 2 VR 537
  9. ^ Royall v R [1991] HCA 27; (1991) 172 CLR 378 AustLII
  10. ^ Royall v R [1991] HCA 27; (1991) 172 CLR 378 AustLII
  11. ^ "Ryan v R [1967] HCA 2; (1967) 121 CLR 205". 
  12. ^ Hudd v Regina [2013] NSWCCA 57 (15 March 2013) AustLii
  13. ^ See Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 19A
  14. ^ See Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW) s 61(1)
  15. ^ See Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW) s 61(1)
  16. ^ See Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 19A(2)
  17. ^ See Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 19B
  18. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 18(1)(b)) AUSTLII
  19. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 24 Austlii