14. Homicide Defences and Family Relationships in Criminal Laws

Recommendation 14–1 State and territory criminal legislation should ensure that defences to homicide accommodate the experiences of family violence victims who kill, recognising the dynamics and features of family violence.

Recommendation 14–2 State and territory governments should review their defences to homicide relevant to family violence victims who kill. Such reviews should:

  1. cover defences specific to victims of family violence as well as those of general application that may apply to victims of family violence;
  2. cover both complete and partial defences;
  3. be conducted as soon as practicable after the relevant provisions have been in force for five years;
  4. include investigations of the following matters:
    1. how the relevant defences are being used—including in charge negotiations—by whom, and with what results; and
    2. the impact of rules of evidence and sentencing laws and policies on the operation of defences; and
  5. report publicly on their findings.

Recommendation 14–3 The national family violence bench book (see Rec 31–2) should include a section that provides guidance on the operation of defences to homicide where a victim of family violence kills the person who was violent towards him or her.

Recommendation 14–4 The Model Criminal Law Officers’ Committee of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General—or another appropriate national body—should investigate strategies to improve the consistency of approaches to recognising the dynamics of family violence in homicide defences in state and territory criminal laws.

Recommendation 14–5 State and territory criminal legislation should provide guidance about the potential relevance of family-violence related evidence in the context of a defence to homicide. Section 9AH of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) is an instructive model in this regard.