New Legislation To Increase Manslaughter Sentences

The Andrews Labor Government will introduce legislation to increase the maximum penalty for manslaughter from 20 to 25 years’ imprisonment.

The Crimes Amendment (Manslaughter and Related Offences) Bill 2020 will increase the penalty from 20 years to 25 years’ imprisonment, including for the related offences of child homicide and workplace manslaughter.

Increasing the maximum penalty will provide greater scope for courts to impose sentences which appropriately reflect a broad range of culpability.

A new offence will also be introduced to cover manslaughter committed by discharging a firearm, delivering on a key election commitment. It will have a maximum penalty of 25 years’ imprisonment – and a standard sentence of 13 years.

The ‘homicide by firearm’ offence responds to cases where offenders are convicted of manslaughter after claiming they did not intend to discharge the firearm.

This new offence addresses concerns about sentences imposed in certain firearm related manslaughters and acknowledges the hard work and advocacy of victims’ families to see sentencing reform in this area.

The maximum penalty represents the sentence that would be imposed for a ‘worst category’ instance of an offence, taking into account both the nature of the criminal conduct and the offender’s circumstances.

The standard sentence represents the sentence that the Government considers appropriate for an offence that falls in the middle of the range of seriousness (taking only objective matters into account). It indicates that sentences of more than 13 years should be imposed for serious offending.

Courts will maintain their discretion to impose an appropriate sentence by taking into consideration the seriousness of a particular offence and culpability of the offender.

To maintain consistency, the maximum penalty for child homicide and workplace manslaughter (both forms of manslaughter) will also increase from 20 years to 25 years’ imprisonment.

In November 2019 the Government delivered on an election commitment to make workplace manslaughter a criminal offence, passing legislation that applies to employers whose negligent conduct causes a workplace death.

Quotes attributable to Attorney-General Jill Hennessy

“We’re increasing the maximum sentence for manslaughter to ensure the range of sentencing appropriately reflects the broad range of culpability we see in these cases.”

“Thank you to the families who have acted with dignity and determination in advocating for the new offence of homicide by firearm – the victims in these cases have been dearly loved daughters or sisters whose loss is felt every day, and they must not be forgotten.”

“By boosting the maximum penalties we acknowledge the seriousness of these offences, and the ongoing trauma inflicted on the family and loved ones of victims.”