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What a Charge of Murder or Manslaughter Means

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What are manslaughter and murder?

Manslaughter and murder are serious crimes. The severity of the crimes is translated in lengthy penalties they carry. In fact, the only crime more serious than manslaughter is murder. 

Manslaughter and murder are jointly defined in section 18 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

Under s1(a), murder is considered to have been committed where the accused had:

  • reckless indifference to human life
  • intent to kill or inflict grievous bodily harm upon some person, 
  • in an attempt to commit a crime punishable by imprisonment for life or 25 years.

With s1(b) noting, every other punishable homicide shall be taken to be manslaughter. The maximum penalty for manslaughter is 25 years.

What is the difference between murder and manslaughter?

The primary difference between murder and manslaughter is that with manslaughter the Crown cannot prove the elements of intention and recklessness with no consideration for life. The fact that the Crown cannot ascertain intention can reduce the sentence from a maximum of life imprisonment to 25 years. 

Our manslaughter defence lawyers and murder lawyers understand the nuances between the two crimes and can provide advice about whether there is an opportunity to downgrade your charges from murder to manslaughter. 

What are the defences to a charge of murder or manslaughter?

On a case-by-case basis, our criminal lawyers at the Australia Legal Practice may be able to defend a charge of murder or manslaughter if:

For example:- 

  1. Self-defence – Your actions were in the protection of yourself or another (including property), resulting in self-defence.
  2. Duress – The threats of another party forced you to act in a certain way, equating to duress.

Additionally, a charge of murder can be downgraded to manslaughter through the partial defence of extreme provocation, as per s23 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

Meaning if the partial defence is successful, you will be found guilty of manslaughter instead of murder.

For the partial defence to be successful:

  1. Your act that caused the death was in response to the conduct of the deceased towards you and
  2. The deceased’s conduct was a serious indictable offence; and
  3. The deceased’s conduct caused you to lose self-control; and
  4. The deceased’s conduct could have caused an ordinary person to lose self-control to the extent of intending to kill or inflict grievous bodily harm.
Options when charged with murder or manslaughter

Subject to your circumstances, you may choose either to:

  1. Plead guilty – Admit to committing the offence and breaking the law
  2. Plead not guilty – Deny committing the offence and breaking the law


If you decide to plead not guilty, our experienced criminal lawyers will vehemently protect your rights so that you get the best possible defence. 

Whether you have been charged with murder or manslaughter contact The Australian Legal Practice. Our murder lawyers and manslaughter lawyers have extensive experience and specialise in criminal offences. We provide tailored advice and are armed with the right knowledge to fight your case.

If your matter is urgent, call (02) 8084 9929 today to arrange a free initial consultation.


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