Abolishing defensive homicide will benefit female victims and offenders

The Conversation logoThis article was first published on The Conversation on 4th October 2013

The Victorian Department of Justice has released its long-awaited review into operation of the controversial offence of defensive homicide. The Consultation Paper proposes the offence’s abolition on the basis that it is “inherently complex”, “has no clear benefit” for women who kill in the context of family violence and has been “inappropriately” used by men who kill.

Defensive homicide was implemented in November 2005 alongside the abolition of the controversial partial defence of provocation. While provocation served to reduce murder to manslaughter where an accused lost their self-control in response to provocative conduct, defensive homicide was designed to allow the criminal law to better respond to persons who kill in response to prolonged family violence.

Defensive homicide applies where a person kills with the belief that their act of lethal violence was necessary to defend themselves, or another person, but where it is shown that they had no reasonable grounds for that belief.

The proposal to abolish defensive homicide in Victoria is a welcome acknowledgement that the offence has operated for over seven years in unintended ways that are out of line with the intentions of the original law reforms. Convictions for defensive homicide to date have overwhelmingly involved homicides outside of the context of family violence involving a male defendant and a male victim.

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