Family violence poorly understood in defensive homicide cases

Women who kill their partners after years of family violence will have fewer options to defend themselves against murder charges if the current Victorian law is abolished, according to a new study.

Defensive homicide applies to killers who unreasonably believed their actions were necessary to defend themselves or others; many are women who are victims of .

The study, by researchers from Monash University and Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria, examined eight cases of women charged with killing their partners since defensive homicide was introduced by the former Labor government in 2005. The study found family violence was still poorly understood and the perception of what is 'reasonable' self-defence continues to be shaped by gender-based stereotypes.

Monash University criminology expert Dr Danielle Tyson from the School of Political and Social Inquiry said there still remained a failure to understand how prior family violence may affect women's responses and why victims may remain in abusive relationships.

"If defensive homicide is abolished and no other partial defence is established to replace it, it is likely that some women who kill in the context of family violence will receive harsher sentences than is currently the case," Dr Tyson said.

"The current limited recognition of family violence gives us little confidence that women will successfully be able to claim self-defence at trial."

Dr Tyson said the need for law reform to ensure justice for women who kill violent partners has been well established for some decades.

"Currently defensive homicide is being used more often by men who kill other men and rarely by women, but the reliance on partial defences or manslaughter by men who kill other men is nothing new and not a sound reason to abolish defensive homicide," Dr Tyson said.

"Victoria has led the way for other Australian jurisdictions in its commitment to bringing about more positive changes for women defendants.

"We need to continue our efforts to develop the law in a way that adequately recognises the impact of family violence on women's lives, but also to work with the to improve the applications of the law so that the spirit and potential of legislative reform can be effectively realised."

Dr Tyson said that until women victims of family violence can be seen to be successfully raising self-defence, defensive homicide should not be abolished.

"We need to see further shifts in the legal profession and culture around the recognition of family violence and women's responses to it. At present, there is no evidence that women's prospects of raising self-defence successfully have improved," Dr Tyson said.

"There is still a long way to go to improve legal responses for who kill an abusive partner and this won't be achieved if the current laws are abolished."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Suicide linked to partner violence for New Zealand women

Nov 01, 2013

New Zealand women who have experienced partner violence are more likely to contemplate suicide, according to New Zealand findings published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health last week.

When battered women fight back stereotyping can kick in

Sep 12, 2012

The topic of domestic abuse remains a controversial issue when it comes to determining punishment for battered women who use violence towards their partner. According to a recent study published in Psychology of Women Qu ...

Recommended for you

AMA 'Code of Ethics' offers guidance for physicians

5 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The American Medical Association (AMA) Code of Ethics and other articles provide guidance for physicians in relation to public health emergencies, according to a report from the AMA.

Pot-infused edibles: One toke over the line in Colorado?

9 hours ago

Marijuana shops have sprouted across Denver ever since Colorado legalized the drug for adults in January, but the popularity of pot-infused edibles has surprised authorities, and parents are seeking a ban ahead of Halloween.

US sues Gerber over claims on infant formula

11 hours ago

U.S. government regulators announced Thursday they were suing Gerber, the well-known baby food maker, for claiming that its Good Start Gentle formula can prevent or reduce allergies in children.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.