Penalties for manslaughter in Victoria


In Victoria, the Crimes Act 1958 specifies that the maximum penalty for manslaughter is 25 years imprisonment. However, the actual penalty will depend on the circumstances of the case, such as the degree of culpability of the offender, the harm caused to the victim, and any aggravating or mitigating factors.


For example, if the manslaughter was committed in the context of family violence, the offender may receive a more severe penalty. On the other hand, if the offender has shown remorse, cooperated with authorities, or has no prior criminal history, the penalty may be less severe after the plea of mitigation.

What is manslaughter?

Manslaughter is the charge one gets where they have killed someone without intending to, but in circumstances where the death nonetheless resulted from their negligent or reckless behavior. The main distinction from the charge of murder is that the prosecution does not need to prove that the accused intended to cause the death of the other person, but merely must prove that the accused acted negligently or recklessly and that their actions caused the death of the other person.

Is a single punch sufficient to prove the charge?

Section 4A of the Crimes Act 1958 specifies that a single punch or strike is taken to be dangerous act for the purpose of the law relating to manslaughter by an unlawful and dangerous act.

This section applies to a single punch or strike that is delivered to any part of a person’s head or neck; and causes an injury to the head or neck.

Where this occurs, the single punch or strike is deemed to be a dangerous act for manslaughter purposes.

What are the defences available for charges of manslaughter?

Identity of offender was not accusedIdentity is a complex area of law. It can be established through direct evidence and circumstantial evidence. Often, it is adduced by witnesses who know the accused and can identity them directly. Otherwise, it can be established through CCTV footage, through photos, through police body camera footage, identification parades.

Notwithstanding the existence of some degree of identity evidence, the evidence may not be sufficient weight to prove identity by reasonable doubt.
Accused was not reckless or negligentManslaughter by criminal negligence involves a death caused by an accused without intention of causing death or serious injury but in circumstances which involved such a great falling short of the standard of care which a reasonable man would have exercised and which involved such a high risk that death or serious injury.
The defence here would be to argue that the circumstances while tragic did not involve such a great falling short of the standard of care that the negligence was criminal.
Accused’s act was not unlawful and dangerousThe circumstances must be that a reasonable person in the accused’s position would have realised that he or she was exposing another to an appreciable risk of serious injury. It is not sufficient that there was a risk of some harm, albeit not serious injury.
Accused was acting in self defenceThe principle of self defence is that one is entitled to use force to protect either themselves or to protect another, however the use of force is limited to what is perceived to be reasonably necessary by the accused in all the circumstances which may be effected by the possible lack of immediacy of the threat.

The question is did the accused believe on reasonable grounds that it was necessary in self defence for him to do what he did? If he had this belief and reasonable grounds exist for the belief, or if a jury is left in reasonable doubt about the matter, then he is entitled to an acquittal.