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Did Defensive Homicide in Victoria Provide a Safety Net for Battered Women Who Kill? A Case Study Analysis

Author(s): Anthony Hopkins

This article seeks to draw conclusions about the potential impact of the Crimes Amendment (Abolition of Defensive Homicide) Act 2014 (Vic). We do so by considering whether defensive homicide served as a safety net in the 2014 case of Director of Public Prosecutions (Vic) v Williams. The article presents a detailed analysis of the trial transcript and sentencing remarks to support the contention that the defence did in fact achieve this purpose. The conclusion rests, principally, upon understanding the jury finding that Williams killed in the belief that her actions were necessary for her own protection, but apparently determined that she had no reasonable grounds for that belief (thereby failing the legal test of self-defence as it then stood). Having looked at how the 2014 legislation also amended relevant evidence laws, and reinforced jury directions to accommodate considerations of family violence, we then consider the implications of these reforms for battered women who kill. We suggest that, in the absence of the offence of defensive homicide, women like Williams may in the future be convicted of murder, even when they kill in response to family violence and with a genuine belief that their actions are necessary in self-defence.

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Centre: CIPL

Research theme: Criminal Law, Indigenous Peoples and the Law, Law and Gender, Law and Social Justice, Legal Education

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