Women’s safety organisation concerned as Sentencing Council recommends no changes to domestic homicide sentencing
Women’s Safety NSW has responded with “deep concern” that the issues put before the Sentencing Council with respect to inadequate sentencing for domestic violence related homicide has been dismissed.
“We hold deep concern that the views and experience of domestic and family violence specialists and victim-survivors of domestic and family violence have been so categorically dismissed in this review,” says Hayley Foster, Chief Executive Officer of Women’s Safety NSW.
“We know that at least since 1991, there has never been a case where someone received a life sentence solely for killing their female partner because it’s not regarded as the most serious category of murder.”
We also know that the sentences for domestic homicides, particularly when bargained down to manslaughter, are lower than those that are not domestic-violence related.”
“We cannot leave this disparity unaddressed.”
Women’s Safety NSW made a number of recommendations in its submission to the review, including the following:
- That the defence of provocation be removed altogether, with a greater focus on self-defence;
- That the current process of concurrent sentencing be replaced with a cumulative sentencing approach for homicides involving gender-based crimes such as sexual, domestic or family violence;
- That character evidence should not be available as a mitigating factor in sentencing for domestic homicide;
- That domestic violence on the part of the homicide offender towards their victim be regarded as an aggravating factor; and
- That domestic violence suffered by the homicide offender at the hands of the homicide victim be regarded as a mitigating factor.
“We cannot simply refer to historical sentencing of domestic homicides as a matter of justice, nor can we simply compare domestic homicide sentencing across other Australian jurisdictions,” says Ms Foster. “If we want just sentences in line with community expectations, we need to close the gaping loopholes for leniency, and explicitly recognise the seriousness of domestic violence homicides in our sentencing guidelines.”
Women’s Safety NSW is calling for the NSW Attorney General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Mark Speakman SC MP to heed the calls of domestic and family violence victim-survivors, specialist organisations, and the broader community, and legislate for more appropriate sentencing of domestic violence related homicide.
“It is unacceptable that we still have options for domestic homicide offenders to rely upon the defence of provocation or ‘good character’ to reduce their sentence in circumstances where they have killed their partner or ex-partner,” says Ms Foster. “The community has had enough of victim-blaming and excuses when it comes to domestic violence. It’s time to treat it with the seriousness it deserves.”
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