Hon Christian Porter BA(Hons) BEc LLB(UWA) MSc(Dist)(LSE) MLA

Hon Christian Porter BA(Hons) BEc LLB(UWA) MSc(Dist)(LSE) MLA

Former Treasurer; Attorney General

    Crimes causing death given stronger penalties

    20/10/2011 12:00 AM
     
    • Life imprisonment now the maximum penalty for manslaughter
    • All manslaughter cases to be heard in the Supreme Court
    • All dangerous driving causing death cases to be heard in the District Court
    People convicted of manslaughter could face up to life imprisonment, up from the current 20-year maximum, under new laws to be introduced today to State Parliament.

    Attorney General Christian Porter said changes to the WA Criminal Code would also mean that manslaughter charges would no longer be heard in the WA District Court and instead be heard only in the WA Supreme Court.

    “From time to time I am able to meet with victims of crime who have suffered the terrible loss of a family member or loved one as a result of violent crime,” Mr Porter said.

    “It is difficult to fully comprehend the momentous impact such crimes can have on the victims’ families and that is why the Government is committed to these laws which will allow for the most serious penalties being available when someone’s life is lost because of criminal behaviour.”

    The Road Traffic Act 1974 (WA) will also be amended to ensure dangerous driving causing death will no longer be able to be dealt with summarily in the Magistrates Court but must be dealt with on indictment in the District Court.

    This will mean that in all cases of dangerous driving causing death the offender will face the potential of the higher maximum penalty.

    Over the past year, 30 cases of dangerous driving causing death were heard in the Magistrates Court and only four were dealt with in the District Court. This means most offences could only be sentenced to a maximum of three years.

    “It appears to the Government that community expectation is that when a life is lost to dangerous driving that the 10-year maximum and the 20-year maximum for aggravated offences always be available,” the Attorney General said.

    “Courts are required in sentencing to have regard to the statutory maximum as an indicator of how seriously society views the act of manslaughter and dangerous driving causing death. 

    “This Bill is meant as a clear message from Parliament that present sentencing for deaths caused through violence or gross recklessness do not always properly reflect the enormity of a loss of life in the eyes of a community and the effect of such deaths on those left behind.

    “These laws will give courts the capacity to ensure sentencing practices for manslaughter and dangerous driving causing death better reflect community sentiment, and we will closely monitor how they use their expanded discretion.”
     
          Fact File
    • In 2010-11 there were 62 reported homicides in Western Australia
    • In 2007 in Bunbury, a 19 year-old male was shot and killed at the door of his family home. The offender pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to four years and three months imprisonment, eligible for parole after two years
    • In 2007, a father of five was struck and killed by an offender wielding a cricket bat on a Geraldton Beach. The offender pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to five years imprisonment. He was made eligible for parole after three years and nine months
    • In 2009, a 37 year-old mother died following a collision with a car driven the wrong way along the Kwinana Freeway by a drug affected driver. The case was dealt with in the Magistrates Court, and the offender received three years jail, made eligible for parole after 18 months
    • In 2010, a Buddhist monk was beaten to death in an unprovoked and extremely violent attack. The offender was sentenced to five years and four months imprisonment, made eligible for parole after three years
    • The change will bring Western Australia back into line with the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Queensland, and South Australia where the maximum penalty for manslaughter is life imprisonment
    Minister's office - 9222 8800