Deakin Criminologist commends Victorian Government's decision to abolish defensive homicide

24 June 2014

Deakin University criminologist, Dr Kate Fitz-Gibbon has called for the speedy abolition of the offence of defensive homicide following the State Government's announcement that it intends to introduce a Bill into Parliament this week that will abolish the controversial law.

"These reforms are a significant step forward for Victorian homicide law and should be commended and implemented without hesitation," she said.

Dr Fitz-Gibbon has strongly advocated for the abolition of defensive homicide since it was slated for review by the former State Government in 2010. She has made several submissions to the former and current State Governments calling for its abolition.

"The offence of defensive homicide was introduced in 2005 as part of a wider package of reforms that saw the abolition of the discredited partial defence of provocation," Dr Fitz-Gibbon explained.

"Originally the offence was introduced to provide a 'halfway' offence for a person who killed in response to prolonged family violence but were unable to meet the requirements of a complete defence of self-defence.

"But this is not how it has operated in practice."

Dr Fitz-Gibbon's investigations into how the offence has operated, drew on case analyses and interviews with Victorian legal practitioners.

"The operation of the offence was having, unjust and unintended consequences," she said.

"Convictions for the offence were predominately obtained by men who killed in the context of a one-off violent confrontation. "In several cases this involved the use of a weapon and occurred where one or more of the persons involved was under the influence of alcohol."

Dr Fitz-Gibbon said alongside the repeal of the offence of defensive homicide, the Government's Bill introduces reforms that will ensure family violence is better explained and understood within the courts.

"This will simplify current complexities in self-defence law and directly address situations where victim blaming narratives have permeated Victorian homicide trials for far too long," she said.

Dr Fitz-Gibbon explains that when considered as a complete package of reform "the Government changes strike an important balance between ensuring that persons who commit intentional acts of lethal violence are convicted of murder while also introducing key reform to protect victims of family violence and to better support jurors in homicide trials.

"Reforming the law in this area has been a long process, but this Bill represents a significant step forward for Victorian homicide law," she said.

 

Media contact

Sandra Kingston
Media and Corporate Communications
03 9246 8221, 0422 005 485
Email Sandra

Dr Fitz-Gibbon is available for interview but is currently in the United Kingdom (June 23 to July 14).  She can be contacted on her mobile (0412 339 243), via email (k.fitzgibbon@deakin.edu.au) or alternatively via Skype (katefitz.gibbon).


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