Legitimising lethal male violence: why defensive homicide needs to be abolished

The Conversation logoThis article was first published at The Conversation on the 29th May 2013.

Research published last week revealed that from November 2005 to September 2012, 18 of the 22 cases of defensive homicide in Victoria resulted from homicides perpetrated by a male offender upon a male victim. Just one case during this period involved a male perpetrator and a female victim. In contrast to the dominant use of the offence by males, there have been just three female offenders convicted of defensive homicide in the first seven years of the offence’s operation.

In November 2005, the Victorian government abolished provocation as a defence to murder, but introduced the charge of defensive homicide. The offence operates whereby a person who kills another with the belief that their act was necessary to defend themselves or another person, but has no reasonable grounds for that belief can be convicted of defensive homicide.

Not intended as a replacement for the provocation defence, defensive homicide was designed to provide a safety net for women who kill in response to prolonged family violence, but are unable to raise the strict requirements of a complete defence of self-defence. But despite the government’s best intentions, in the seven years since the law was implemented, battered women have not overly benefited from this new offence.

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