Murder is the most serious offence that someone can be charged with. It is a criminal charge that carries a penalty of life imprisonment. Without a doubt, if an individual has been charged with murder, it is essential that they secure high quality legal representation that specialises in criminal defence law.
Prosecution bear the burden of proof to prove a criminal charge in court beyond all reasonable doubt. If they fail to achieve this, an individual is acquitted and found ‘not guilty’. In order to secure a conviction for murder, Prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:
- the victim is deceased; and
- the defendant’s act has contributed significantly towards the death of the victim; and
- the defendant either:
- intended to kill the victim;
- intended to inflict grievous bodily harm;
- knew that it was probable that his/her act would cause death or grievous bodily harm; or
- has put the victim in danger with reckless indifference to the life of the person.
The defendant’s act only needs to contribute significantly towards the death of the victim and it does not have to be the sole cause or even the main cause of death.
An act of intentional violence is an offence of murder where the act:
- is committed as an intentional act of violence;
- is acting in the course or furtherance of another serious offence punishable by imprisonment for 10 years or more (with some limits/exceptions); and
- results in the death of another.
It is also a criminal offence for any person to conspire to murder or to solicit the murder of another person. This is an offence called ‘Conspiracy to Commit Murder’.
Murder can also occur by omission. A person may be guilty of murder because of something they did not do. Situations where a person has a positive duty to act are rare, but can include situations where parents leave a child to starve to death.
Similar to murder, manslaughter requires that the victim has died and that an act of the defendant contributed significantly to the victim’s death. However, the important difference between murder and manslaughter is that where murder requires that the defendant intended, or was reckless, to cause death or grievous bodily harm, an offence of manslaughter does not require such an intention.
Manslaughter occurs where the death of a person was caused by a person’s actions which were not intended by them to result in such harm. In effect, what this means is that the person has committed the physical offence or act that has led to the victim’s death, but has not committed the mental elements of the offence.
Despite the fact that the offence of manslaughter is less serious than murder, the penalties that are imposed are still very severe. Individuals that are found guilty of manslaughter can still expect to serve immediate imprisonment sentences. Given the substantial penalties that are imposed for offences of this kind, it is essential that you engage specialist criminal defence representation if you or someone that you know has been charged with an offence of manslaughter.