Bond University academics who played an integral role in driving Queensland’s new legislation for victims of domestic violence who kill their attackers have called on the rest of Australia to consider similar legislation recognising the unique features of domestic violence killings.
The Queensland Government passed the landmark legislation in February, making Queensland the first and only state in Australia to provide domestic violence victims with a partial defence of ‘killing in an abusive domestic relationship’.
The defence allows juries to bring down a verdict of manslaughter instead of murder in applicable cases, leaving the sentence a discretionary one for the judge.
Bond University Faculty of Law Dean Professor Geraldine Mackenzie and Professor Eric Colvin were commissioned by the Queensland Attorney-General to conduct extensive community and stakeholder consultations and recommend legislature provisions.
Professor Mackenzie said their research, conducted with the assistance of Assistant Professor Jodie O’Leary, concluded that victims of seriously abusive relationships were not adequately protected by the existing defences, such as self-defence and provocation.
“We examined previous legal cases and consulted with victim support groups and found some people – not exclusive to women – feel so trapped and afraid, they find the only way out is the most extreme of all crimes,” said Professor Mackenzie.
“The new defence acknowledges the fact that desperate people can act out and kill their abuser to end sustained violence.
“This legislation does not excuse homicide; rather it allows the judicial system to better assess the actions of people who choose to fight back against continued abuse and broadens the courts’ sentencing options.
“This is vital legislation, and we would urge other jurisdictions to consider similar provisions.”
Professor Mackenzie said it was an honour for Bond University to play such a pivotal role in shaping the Australian-first legislation.
“We were gratified that the hard work of our team has been acknowledged in this way and the views of the community were recognised, but more so it vindicates the suffering of the victims of domestic violence who have been forced to react,” said Professor Mackenzie.
“It was wonderful to see the expertise of academics being utilised and I certainly believe there is scope for legal academics to play a greater role in policy making,” she said.