Murder is the most serious crime in the Queensland Criminal Code, and carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.
Murder charges typically involve careful consideration of subtle legal issues and typically a large volume of complex evidence. The justice system must consider not only the circumstances of the death, but also the motivations of the accused. If evidence is insufficient to prove murder, the lesser charge of manslaughter may apply instead.
In order to prove a charge of murder, the prosecution must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused person:
- did the deliberate act that caused the deceased's death and
- had an intention to kill or cause grievous bodily harm to the deceased or acted recklessly in a way that would probably cause death.
Given the high stakes and the complexity of the matters, it is important to have experienced legal representation when facing a murder charge.
What happens when someone is charged with murder
In investigating a murder, the police may ask individuals to take part in an interview of record. These interviews have serious potential implications. You should always get professional legal advice before talking to the police. This is true even if you think you have a reasonable explanation or excuse.
Someone charged with murder does not get bail automatically. It can only be granted on application to the Supreme Court. In most (though not all) cases, an accused person will be remanded in custody for the duration of their matter.
The initial court processes will take place in the Magistrates Court, but the case itself will eventually need to be heard and considered in the Supreme Court.
The legal defences to murder
There are a number of potential defences to the charge of murder. As in any legal proceeding, there is the question of whether there is sufficient evidence to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. In murder proceedings, much will depend on the volume and complexity of the evidence. It is not uncommon for the evidence to include communications data, DNA and other forensic evidence, and expert testimony in addition to witness statements. In cases where a killing has been proven, there may still be doubt regarding the intentions or motivations of the accused.
The main legal defences to murder include causation, involuntariness, self-defence and unsoundness of mind. There is also the partial defence of provocation, which, if successful, reduces a charge of murder to one of manslaughter.
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