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Partial Defences to Murder in NSW 1990-2004

NCJ Number
Sam Indyk; Hugh Donnelly; Jason Keane
Date Published
94 pages
This study examined data on the use of partial defenses to murder in New South Wales (Australia) for the years 1990-2004.
Over this period, 232 of 897 homicide defendants (26 percent) raised a partial defense of either provocation (instinctive, unplanned attack on the victim rather than deliberate planning of the killing); diminished responsibility due to a mental health condition; or excessive self-defense. A total of 156 offenders received reduced sentences based on a partial defense. There was little difference in success rate by type of partial defense. Offenders who were successful with partial defenses received a wide range of sentences based in the circumstances of the crime. Sentences other than full-time custody were imposed on 14 out of 156 offenders (9 percent). These sentences were more common in diminished responsibility/substantial impairment cases than in provocation cases, and they were most prevalent among the small sample of cases in which both diminished responsibility/substantial impairment and provocation were established. Other issues addressed in the data were whether juries in New South Wales accepted partial defenses, the proportion of cases in which the prosecution accepted a guilty plea based on a partial defense, the predominant factual scenarios in which partial defenses were accepted at trial or a guilty plea, factors taken into account in sentencing based on successful partial defenses, and how disadvantaged or vulnerable groups were affected by partial defenses. Study data were obtained from the New South Wales Judicial Commission's Judicial Information Research System. Detailed information on partial defense cases was obtained primarily from judge's remarks at sentencing and any appeal judgment. 15 figures, 8 tables and a 10-item selected bibliography