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Murder – Methods of Prosecution in the Victorian Legal System

Murder – Methods of Prosecution in the Victorian Legal System

By Elly McQuinn


Many people are unaware of the different types of murder that exist in the Victorian legal system. Here is a brief overview of the various offences which are classified as ‘murder’.


Traditional Murder: When most people think of murder, this traditional category is the type that often comes to mind and is recreated in horror films. This sub-type of murder is committed where a person intentionally aims to cause the death of or grievous bodily harm to another individual without holding a lawful reason (e.g. A police officer in the line of duty) or mitigating circumstances to reduce the crime to manslaughter (e.g. mental impairment or self-defence). The key element here is the subjective intention to kill or severely injure held in the accused’s mind.

Reckless Murder: This sub-type of murder is similar to ‘traditional murder’, however the accused does not intentionally but instead recklessly causes the death of another person, for example, recklessly aims and shoots a gun during a robbery which hits a person and kills them.

Murder in the furtherance of a criminal act: This type of murder occurs where an accused kills another during the course of committing a separate violent crime. For example, if A punched B (the initial crime which is also violent), and B died, then A may potentially be liable for murder as though he had intentionally killed B within Section 3A of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic), even though it may have been his subjective aim to merely cause injury. This type of murder also extends to accused person who cause death whilst attempting to escape lawful arrest, for example hitting and killing a pedestrian while attempting to escape a police chase. Consequently, these offences are potentially punishable by life imprisonment, being identical to the sanctions for ‘traditional murder’ discussed above.

It is noteworthy that ‘murder’ must be committed against a ‘PERSON’. Within the meaning of Victorian legislation, this is held to be any living person once they are born – a foetus which is unborn is not classed as a ‘person’.

Infanticide: This crime involves the killing of infant children and babies by their mother; however this is not technically classed as ‘murder’ if the mother holds a disorder within 2 years of giving birth. This is an interesting part of Victorian law, and sees mothers facing a maximum of 5 years imprisonment, as opposed to the life sentence available for murder.

Each of the aforementioned sub-categories of murder must also demonstrate a voluntary act (conscious and independent movement, so not while you were sleep walking) by the accused, and this act must have caused the death. Therefore, if an intervening event occurred, this may mean the accused’s actions are not ‘murder’, for example, if Rob, the victim, has a prior disease of haemophilia which was unbeknown to Ash, the accused, who punched Rob and caused him a blood nose, and excessive bleeding in the brain. Due to Rob’s prior medical defect, he bleeds very heavily and dies. You may believe that Ash did not cause the death of Rob, because it was his medical condition which caused him to bleed out and therefore, he did not substantially cause the death of Rob. However, Victorian law upholds the principle that you must ‘take the victim as you find them’, and thus a pre-existing medical condition like Rob’s will not excuse or act as a defence to the act of murder despite the fact it may be exceptional and would not result in the average, healthy person dying.


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