Audit on defences to homicide: accident and provocation

Activity occurred prior to the current government.

The Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Kerry Shine recently commissioned an audit of homicide trials to ascertain the nature and frequency of the reliance on the excuse of accident (under section 23 of the Criminal Code) and the partial defence to murder of provocation (under section 304 of the Criminal Code).

The audit arose out of community concern following the outcomes of three recent cases – Jonathan James Little, who was acquitted of murder in relation to the death of David Stevens; Ryan William Moody, who was acquitted of manslaughter in relation to the death of Nigel Lee; and Damien Karl Sebo, who was acquitted of murder, but convicted of manslaughter, in relation to the death of Taryn Hunt.

A discussion paper has been drafted and provides a review of the law in relation to the excuse of accident and the partial defence of provocation. It includes a jurisdictional comparison and looks at law reform in other Australian jurisdictions and in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The discussion paper also looks at the role of the jury and the nature of Queensland’s sentencing system. Importantly, the discussion paper also outlines the results of the audit, including a number of case studies involving particularly relevant factual circumstances.

The purpose of the discussion paper is to provide information about the nature and frequency of the use of these defences, as well as some broader contextual information, in order to provide an opportunity for stakeholders to comment on the operation and use of these defences.

The discussion paper does not reflect or represent the views of the Government nor does it propose a particular direction for future action.

Submissions closed on 3 December 2007.