A report recently released by Monash Arts criminologist Dr Asher Flynn, in collaboration with her colleague Dr Kate Fitz-Gibbon (Deakin University), has sparked wide debate about plea-bargaining in the Victorian justice system.
Released in June 2012, the study examines the operation of the offence of defensive homicide from 1 November 2005 until 30 April 2012 and shows that since its implementation, 16 of the 21 convictions of defensive homicide have resulted from the Crown accepting a guilty plea to the lesser offence – the result of private negotiations between the prosecution and defence. Flynn and Fitz-Gibbon argue that greater transparency and scrutiny is required in Victoria, particularly with respect to homicide plea deals, to increase public confidence in the administration of justice.
The report has created a high level of discussion and debate in the Victorian community and the State Attorney-General Robert Clark has indicated that following the completion of an internal review, they will be seeking advice from the Department of Justice to amend Victoria’s defensive homicide laws to address the very problems identified in the study provides the first evaluation of the use of plea deals in cases of defensive homicide since the laws’ introduction in November 2005. It highlights that defensive homicide is operating in ways significantly different from those anticipated when the then-Government first introduced the laws.
The research draws from 63 interviews conducted with members of the Victorian judiciary, Office of Public Prosecutions and the defence counsel and is the first report of its kind to provide insight into stakeholder perceptions of plea-bargaining in Victorian homicide cases. The report argues that while there is a place for plea bargaining in Victoria, the absence of any externally transparent records of the deals means there is a lack of data available to explain how often, in what cases and why plea bargaining is used, which is particularly concerning in cases involving the most serious form of criminal misconduct. While the DPP has three internal policies and some provisions in place to guide prosecutorial discretion and ensure the appropriateness of deals made in homicide cases, the study questions whether these internal mechanisms are sufficient to compensate for the absence of any external transparency pertaining to plea deals. At this stage, because there is no external information or records available as to when and why the plea bargain was accepted, we do not know.
Dr Flynn explains that access to detailed information about plea bargains would “allow us to examine how often plea deals occur, in which cases, and whether we need more accountability in the decision-making process. At this stage, because there is no information provided as to why the plea bargain is accepted, we do not know why these cases are being resolved as the less culpable offence of defensive homicide and whether these decisions reflect traditional judicial values.”
The Age, Herald Sun and ABC network have also profiled the findings of this report extensively, which shows that this research has contributed to national interest and debate at both a state and national level.
For more information see:
- “Murder ‘deals’ under fire” – front page – The Age 25/06/2012: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/murder-deals-under-fire-20120624-20wmh.html
- “State to change defensive homicide law” – front page – The Age 26/06/2012: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/state-to-change-defensive-homicide-law-20120625-20ymx.html
- Download article in Melbourne University Law Review (2012) vol 25, issue 3, can be found here: http://mulr.com.au/issues/35_3/35_3_6.pdf
- “Getting away with murder” – TV interview on the ABC’s national breakfast show and article published in the ABC news: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-06-25/27getting-away-with-murder27/4090824?section=vic
Monash research on human security featured on Radio National
Findings from the Fluid Security in the Asia Pacific project featured recently in a program on the … Continue reading Monash research on human security featured on Radio National
Monash research examines whether child homicide offenders should be named
Monash criminologist Dr Kate Fitz-Gibbon and Deakin criminologist Dr Wendy O’Brien have authored a new … Continue reading Monash research examines whether child homicide offenders should be named
Congratulations to our newest Doctor of Philosophy in Criminology – Dr Christina Kirtley
Dr Christina Kirtley has been part of the Monash Criminology cohort since she was an … Continue reading Congratulations to our newest Doctor of Philosophy in Criminology – Dr Christina Kirtley
Seeing borders from the perspectives of criminology and visual arts
Associate Professor Leanne Weber has joined with visual artists and curators to discuss contemporary borders … Continue reading Seeing borders from the perspectives of criminology and visual arts
Will technology make ‘thought policing’ a reality?
Professor Jude McCulloch’s research and co-authored book ‘Pre-Crime: Preemption, precaution and the future‘ featured in … Continue reading Will technology make ‘thought policing’ a reality?
New report on legal responses to intimate partner homicide
Drs Debbie Kirkwood and Danielle Tyson, both research fellows in Criminology in the School of … Continue reading New report on legal responses to intimate partner homicide
Another contribution to the budget and family violence debate
Today the Age published an opinion piece by the Gender and Family Violence team about … Continue reading Another contribution to the budget and family violence debate
Federal budget fails Australian women and children by neglecting family violence
As Dr Kate Fitzgibbon explains in her latest piece in The Conversation, the 2016 Federal Budget … Continue reading Federal budget fails Australian women and children by neglecting family violence
Monash Criminology welcomes visiting scholar Elizabeth Stanley
Monash Criminology is very pleased to welcome Elizabeth Stanley from Victoria University Wellington, NZ, as a Visiting Scholar in … Continue reading Monash Criminology welcomes visiting scholar Elizabeth Stanley
Have your say in improving risk assessment and management for those experiencing family violence
The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services has contracted with a team working in … Continue reading Have your say in improving risk assessment and management for those experiencing family violence
Monash Crim runs postgraduate seminar for Royal Thai Embassy
Monash Criminology’s Dr Marie Segrave has run a seminar organised by the Office of Education … Continue reading Monash Crim runs postgraduate seminar for Royal Thai Embassy
Video Available: Monash Crim Horizons
On Wednesday 6 April 2016, the Monash Criminological Horizons Annual Public Lecture – Sexual Violence: … Continue reading Video Available: Monash Crim Horizons