This article was first published on The Conversation website.
The law’s response to lethal domestic violence in Australia raises complex issues. It requires a delicate balance to be struck between ensuring a just response to those who kill in response to prolonged family violence while simultaneously ensuring that those who kill an intimate partner in unmeritorious circumstances are not minimised, excused or justified by the court system.
On Friday, Yassir Ibrahim Mohamed Hassan was sentenced in the NSW Supreme Court to a maximum term of 12 years imprisonment, with a non-parole period of nine years, for the manslaughter of his wife, Mariam Henery Yousif. Hassan's case is a stark reminder of the injustices caused by the partial defence of provocation, which continues to reduce what would otherwise be murder to manslaughter in New South Wales,
Hassan, aged 56 years old at the time of sentencing, killed his 24-year-old wife in a ‘frenzied’ knife attack that occurred on a background of over two years of disharmony in the marriage. While the specific cause of the marriage deterioration was not clear, on sentence the judge noted multiple contributing factors including their significant age difference, cultural differences and disagreements over parenting discipline style.
This article was first published on The Sydney Morning Herald website on 22 October 2013.
The O'Farrell government must reconsider their recommendation to retain a restricted version of the controversial partial defence of provocation.
This month the Home Secretary Theresa May MP announced a major review in England and Wales of how police respond to domestic violence. The much-needed review comes in the wake of several high profile cases of women killed by former male partners with a recorded history of violence against women. These cases, including the deaths of Clare Wood and Maria Stubbings, have rightly led to community concern as to why victims of domestic violence are not better responded to, and protected, by the police.
Provocation is a partial defence to murder, which has attracted controversy and critique in every Australian criminal justice system except South Australia … until now.
Courtesy of concerns surrounding the ‘gay panic’ defence, South Australia has joined the provocation debate and has already begun to take steps to minimising the application of this controversial law.
Provocation is a partial defence to murder which where successfully raised reduces what would otherwise be murder to manslaughter. A reduction in culpability that has a significant impact in sentencing. It is based on the premise that a degree understanding should be afforded to those who lose their self-control and perpetrate lethal violence in response to provocative conduct on the part of the victim, or a third party.