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The Victorian Law Reform Commission - Essay Example

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The Victorian Law Reform Commission was established under the Victorian Law Reform Commission Act 2000 as the central agency for developing law reform in Victoria. The Commission was engaged in developing the Defences to Homicide project which looked at the history of homicide laws and defences and explained the defences of self-defence, provocation, mental impairment, automatism, diminished responsibility, infanticide, duress, necessity and marital coercion…
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The Victorian Law Reform Commission
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Download file to see previous pages Under the present law factors that reduce a person's blameworthiness for an intentional killing may be taken into account in one of three ways. In some situations where people intentionally kill another person they may be charged with and convicted of an offence which attracts a lower sentence than murder (for example, manslaughter). In this case they will not be 'labelled' as a 'murderer'. In other situations they may not be guilty of any offence (as where they killed in self-defence) or they may be convicted of the lesser offence of manslaughter because they have a partial defence (as where they successfully argue they killed as the result of provocation).
However, different legal systems take account of levels of blameworthiness in different ways. When law reform bodies have reviewed defences and partial defences to homicide, they have frequently reached different conclusions on how factors which affect the culpability of the accused should be taken into account by the criminal law. ...
This allowed the courts to take into account certain human frailties. One such frailty involved the idea that the accused had been provoked into committing the act, because the victim had said or done something that caused the offender to loose control--as was deemed to be the case in the instance of a "chance medley."
For the provocation defence to be invoked, the nature of the provocation had to fall into one of four categories: (1) grossly insulting assault; (2) attack upon a relative or a friend; (3) unlawful imprisonment or restraint of an Englishman; or (4) a man coming upon his wife engaged in adultery. In order to benefit from the defence, the accused had to prove that, during his response to the provocation, he was sufficiently deprived of self-control and had acted without malice.
Historically, the criminal law system has justified and condoned male violence against women. It allowed a man to use "reasonable" force to ensure the respect and obedience of his spouse; it immunized husbands from prosecution for rape of their wives; it did not sanction the rape of "bad girls;" and it ignored most forms of child abuse. Our law did not even recognize the existence of sexual harassment until the mid-eighties, and the use of professional and religious power to sexually exploit subordinates has only recently been acknowledged and condemned by our justice system.
More specifically, special evidentiary and substantive rules were developed for cases of wife-assault. Indeed, a woman cannot be compelled to testify against her husband, even in a case where he is accused of assault against her. This principle of "marital unity" historically "privatized" her complaint and forced her to bear the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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