Defences to Homicide

How should the criminal law deal with the range of situations in which people kill others? How should their culpability be assesed when individual factors vary so greatly? These were the central questions in the Commission's review of the legal defences to homicide in Victoria.    

The inquiry began in September 2001 with a reference from the Attorney-General. In 2003, the Commission published an options paper and conducted extensive consultations. 

Tabled in Parliament on 18 November 2004, our final report recommended the abolition of the partial excuse of provocation, changes to the definition of self-defence, the recognition of excessive self-defence as a partial defence and the introduction of expert evidence about family violence. 

The recommendations sought to reflect appropriate culpability for homicides that occur where there has been ongoing family violence. 


The Crimes (Homicide) Act 2005 implemented the Commission's major legislative recommendations, including creating a new offence of defensive homicide as an alternative to murder. 

As recommended by the Commission, the Department of Justice commenced a review of the operation of defensive homicide laws in 2010, five years after the introduction of the changes. In June 2014, the government introduced a bill to abolish defensive homicide on the grounds that it was not operating as intended. This was based on evidence that defensive homicide was predominantly being relied upon by men who killed other men in violent confrontations, rather than women who kill in the context of family violence.

In September 2014, the Crimes Amendment (Abolition of Defensive Homicide) Act 2014 came into operation, seeking to address homicide in the context of family violence by simplifying self-defence and introducing jury directions on family violence.


Current: Table in parliament

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Final report
Tabled in parliament
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Project Publications

Defences to Homicide: Final Report

The Defences to Homicide: Final Report was tabled in Parliament on 18 November 2004 and made 56 recommendations. Below are some of the major...

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Defences to Homicide - Recommendations

In the final report of its review of defences to homicide, the Commission made 56 recommendations:  Provocation 1.   The partial defence of...

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Defences to Homicide - Terms of Reference

 On 21 September 2001, the Commission received a reference from the Attorney-General to review and report on the defences to homicide under the...

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