Manslaughter Key Facts

Maximum Penalty

  • Life imprisonment.

Possible Defences

  • you were acting in self-defence;
  • you were acting in defence of another;
  • you were acting in defence of property;
  • your action was involuntary;
  • you were provoked; or
  • it was not you that committed the act.
  • Mental impairment

What Is The Charge Of Manslaughter?

Manslaughter is a term used to describe homicides that fall short of murder.

In South Australia, you will be charged with manslaughter if you have caused the death of another person, however, you neither intended to cause that person’s death, you did not intend to cause them grievous bodily harm, nor were you recklessness as to whether death or grievous bodily harm would occur.

Manslaughter will usually be left to the jury as an alternative to murder where murder is charged.

In South Australia, the law recognises two broad categories of manslaughter – voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

Voluntary Manslaughter

A person may be convicted of voluntary manslaughter where they intentionally caused the death of another person (murder) but that conduct has been mitigated because a partial defence of provocation or self-defence is made out.

Involuntary Manslaughter

A person may be convicted of involuntary manslaughter where they have caused the death of a person but they did not intend to cause the death or grievous bodily harm and were not recklessness as to whether the death or grievous bodily harm would occur.

You will be guilty of manslaughter if a person dies because you acted in a way which created a real risk of serious injury to the victim, and you were acting unlawfully. An unlawful act is any criminal offence; usually this will be an assault.

Manslaughter is a very serious offence. We highly recommend that you seek legal advice as soon as possible, even before being charged by the police. 

What Is The Penalty For Manslaughter?

Section 13 of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) imposes a maximum penalty for manslaughter of life imprisonment.

Unlike murder, this is not a mandatory penalty.

Manslaughter is a very serious offence and we highly recommend that you seek legal advice as soon as possible, even before being charged by the police. Many cases are won or loss in the preparation of the case.

What Are The Possible Defences For Manslaughter?

It can be a defence to a charge of manslaughter that:

  • you were acting in self-defence;
  • you were acting in defence of another;
  • you were acting in defence of property;
  • your action was involuntary;
  • you were provoked; or
  • it was not you that committed the act.

Mental impairment

The law recognises that in some cases people will not be capable of evaluating the nature and quality of their conduct or more categorically, they will not know what they are doing is wrong. If it can be shown that you were suffering from some sort of mental disease, disorder or disturbance, as distinguished from a mere lack of self-control or impulsiveness, then you may have a defence to this charge.

Mental impairments may be either permanent or non-permanent and may include disorders such as:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Hyperglycaemia
  • Psychomotor epilepsy
  • Cerebral arteriosclerosis

What the Prosecution Must Prove

To be guilty of involuntary manslaughter the Prosecution must prove that:

  1. you did an unlawful act;
  2. your unlawful act caused the death of a person; and
  3. you should have known there was a real risk of very serious injury.

What Court will Hear the Matter

This is a major indictable charge. The proceedings will initially commence in the Magistrates Court of South Australia. If there is sufficient evidence against you, the matter will then be transferred to the Supreme Court of South Australia.

If you are charged with this offence you definitely require the services of a lawyer – call us on (08) 8120 3778 or email solicitors@caldicottlawyers.com.au and our experienced criminal lawyers will be happy to answer your questions in relation to your charge of murder.

Case Studies For Similar Offences

We have defended thousands of criminal cases over many decades and constantly achieve outstanding results for our clients. Please view our results by clicking the cases below:

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Case Study – Aggravated Assault

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