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 Criminology welcomes the Francine McNiff bequest
Monash Criminology has received a generous bequest from Monash University alumnus, Francine McNiff. The $1.8 … Continue reading Monash Criminology welcomes the Francine McNiff bequest
Opportunity to undertake PhD on intimate partner homicide
The Monash Gender and Family Violence: New Frameworks in Prevention research program is seeking a … Continue reading Opportunity to undertake PhD on intimate partner homicide
Monash Research Shaping More Law Reform – the ACT criminalises image-based abuse
Following on from their roles in shaping the introduction of the Crimes Amendment (Intimate Images) … Continue reading Monash Research Shaping More Law Reform – the ACT criminalises image-based abuse
Monash Criminology Researchers call for independent and responsive oversight of Victoria Police
Professor Jude McCulloch and Associate Professor Leanne Weber have made a submission to the Inquiry … Continue reading Monash Criminology Researchers call for independent and responsive oversight of Victoria Police
Monash Criminology Honours students participate in policy mobilities and crime control workshop
A group of current and former Honours students took part in a two-hour workshop on … Continue reading Monash Criminology Honours students participate in policy mobilities and crime control workshop
From England to Melbourne: Professor Tim Newburn delivers the 2017 Monash Criminological Horizons Lecture on ‘Riots’
On Wednesday July 19, Distinguished Visiting Scholar Professor Tim Newburn of the London School of … Continue reading From England to Melbourne: Professor Tim Newburn delivers the 2017 Monash Criminological Horizons Lecture on ‘Riots’
Monash Criminology doctoral student combines activism and research at public event
Monash Crim PhD student David Vakalis will explore the policing of public space and the … Continue reading Monash Criminology doctoral student combines activism and research at public event
New publication in International Journal of Drug Policy
Monash criminologists Jarrett Blaustein, Miki McLay and Jude McCulloch have published an article on harm … Continue reading New publication in International Journal of Drug Policy
New Article on the Victims’ Right to Review Reform by Monash Criminology’s Mary Iliadis and Dr Asher Flynn
Monash Criminology PhD candidate and Assistant Lecturer, Mary Iliadis, along with her supervisor, Dr Asher … Continue reading New Article on the Victims’ Right to Review Reform by Monash Criminology’s Mary Iliadis and Dr Asher Flynn
Monash Criminology represented at Cinema Nova screening for Refugee Week
On Tuesday evening, Assoc. Prof Marie Segrave, from Monash Criminology andThe Border Crossing Observatory, was … Continue reading Monash Criminology represented at Cinema Nova screening for Refugee Week
New article on policy mobilities in Theoretical Criminology
Monash Crim’s Jarrett Blaustein has teamed with internationally renowned criminologists Tim Newburn and Trevor Jones … Continue reading New article on policy mobilities in Theoretical Criminology
Special issue of Punishment & Society examines mental illness, intellectual disability and punishment
Monash criminologists Marie Segrave, Claire Spivakovsky and Anna Eriksson have jointly edited a special issue … Continue reading Special issue of Punishment & Society examines mental illness, intellectual disability and punishment