Media Releases

03
Sep
2014

CRIMES AMENDMENT (ABOLITION OF DEFENSIVE HOMICIDE) BILL 2014

It is a pleasure to rise and speak on the Crimes Amendment (Abolition of Defensive Homicide) Bill 2014. As the previous speaker has mentioned, family violence is absolutely unacceptable, and we in this house and in the community need to do everything possible to stamp it out — violence against women and violence against children.

The legislation the bill in front of us amends was established to protect families and women from violence perpetrated against them, in many cases by a spouse or someone else who is very close to them. Unfortunately in the 33 instances of cases of defensive homicide having been brought before a court, only 5 of the defendants have been women. In many cases defensive homicide has been used by men, and by drug‑affected and alcohol‑affected men, in arguing their defence.

It is ironic that we are debating this bill today, when the Law Reform, Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee report on its inquiry into ice was released. I have been on that committee and involved in its 10 months worth of work. I have seen what drug‑affected individuals can do and the impact of those sorts of drugs on society. There have been just too many cases of people having psychotic episodes, going out and harming individuals, and then claiming afterwards that they were in a state, they were unclear of what happened and they felt threatened, and using that as their defence.

The bill has had the support of a number of individuals. I place on the record a newspaper report that states:

Police Association secretary and former homicide squad detective … Ron Iddles welcomed the new laws and said they cater for family violence issues and ‘make self‑defence easier for a jury to understand’.

By tightening up these laws the Attorney‑General and the government are ensuring the laws are there for what they were intended for — to protect women.

Phil Cleary is also on the record. Many would remember and be aware of Phil’s situation in 1987 when his sister was killed by her ex‑boyfriend. The defensive homicide victim blaming was used in that instance. For a number of years Phil has been advocating that perpetrators and their lawyers blaming women for their own murders is not acceptable, and we need to ensure that those women are protected. He has been a strong advocate for and supporter of the sorts of changes we are moving towards.

There have been many examples, some of which have been mentioned today, of people just going out and committing crimes, including the murder of individuals, and using all sorts of different excuses. Killers who escape murder convictions include ice addicts and schizophrenics. An article in the Herald Sun in June reports they include one man who thought he was a clone of Hitler or Hitler’s grandson when he killed two men, and a prisoner who stabbed an inmate 16 times.

There was a tragic situation in my electorate. A mother and father came to visit me after having lost their teenage son, who had been caught up in the drug environment. Late one night in St Kilda he was wandering the streets, and a drug dealer came across him. At the time the drug dealer was affected by ice and thought the young person was a potential threat to him. This young person was homeless. He had left home and his parents could not get back in touch with him. They had tried many different programs to get him back. This young man was killed on the street as a result of being stabbed a number of times. Those parents live with that tragedy every single day. The individual who committed the offence used the defence that he thought he was being threatened at the time. Witnesses came forward and suggested that that was not the case, but he said the intent was there. This makes absolutely clear the case that there is a need to offer this sort of protection to members of our community.

Earlier this week we a ran community forum in my electorate called Pathways to Respectful Relationships. In attendance was the Chief Commissioner of Police, Ken Lay; the Minister for Community Services, Mary Wooldridge; Rosie Batty, who shared with us the very traumatic story of losing her son and who is herself a victim of family violence; and Fiona McCormack, CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria. The chief executive officer of inTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence, Maya Avdibegovic, attended to talk about the issues affecting women from multicultural backgrounds who have been affected by family violence. It is clear that this issue can impact upon all members of our community, regardless of their background or who they are. We need to ensure we have strategies to tackle this. Rodney Vlais, acting chief executive officer of No To Violence and the Men’s Referral Service joined the forum to talk about strategies to assist in counselling and educating men. The sorts of strategies we need are those that result in clear laws that protect women. That is what we talked about at the forum, which I presented alongside the member for Prahran and the member for Bentleigh.

Each of the people on the panel who told their story, as well as the 130‑odd people in the room, all spoke about the issue of power — power used as leverage against them by men to influence and control them. Rosie Batty told us that after she had left her partner and he felt he had no further power or control over her, his last out was to murder their son. If ever a story went to the crux of being a victim, losing control and being powerless, and hit you right in the heart, Rosie Batty’s is the one — but it is only one of many stories that were recounted by speakers from both sides of the house in their contributions today.

The Attorney‑General has acted swiftly to introduce this very important bill. It will abolish defensive homicide and reform the law of complicity, and it will introduce a number of measures to provide support to victims of family violence, including improving self‑defence laws and introducing jury directions on family violence into the Jury Directions Act 2013. It will also allow evidence to be excluded if it may unnecessarily demean homicide victims. We must do whatever we can to protect victims who are powerless, as I have mentioned in this contribution, and we still have some work to do. We must do whatever we can to ensure that the true victims of this sort of violence, often families, children and women, are protected.

 

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