As some of you may be aware there was until recently a significant period in the ACT where those who had been charged with murder/manslaughter were not being convicted.The ACT Chief Justice Terrence Higgins was the trial judge in three such cases in recent years and all were acquitted on the basis of self-defence ie. Rao,Field and the 17 year old female involved in the Anderson murder.Many like myself were astounded at the decisions and believed Higgins simply got it wrong.
I researched the High Court direction in Zecevic (1987) which Higgins continually referred to in his judgements which i found complex, repetitive and disappointing given the ramifications.
The circumstances that brought on the High Court decision are as follows; the victim rented a unit from the defendant (Zecevic) who became increasingly angry with the tenant who kept leaving the security gates into the courtyard unlocked.After a heated exchange the defendant claimed he was stabbed, ran to his unit got his shotgun then returned to the courtyard and shot and killed the tenant.After reading Judge Vincent’s judgement one can understand why self-defence was not considered relevant.
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So in Zecevic the law of self-defence was restated as follows: “The question to be asked in the end is quite simple.It is whether the accused believed upon reasonable grounds that it was necessary in self-defence to do what he did.If he had that belief and there were reasonable grounds for it,or if the jury is left in reasonable doubt about the matter,then he is entitled to an acquittal.” The High Court also stated that “excessive force in self-defence” was no longer good law in Australia.They determined that the Viro direction on excessive force was proving extremely difficult for judges to direct the jury in a comprehensible manner.
The consequences of these directions are such that it has effectively made it extremely difficult for the Crown to prove that the murders committed by the persons named above were not in self-defence so that has made it relatively easy for Higgins to acquit. I have read the judgements in all of these cases and i am confident if excessive force in self-defence had been reinstated ,as it is now in SA,VIC and NSW ,then all three would have been found guilty of manslaughter by a jury at least.
So in closing why has Attorney-General Corbell done absolutely nothing,as far as i’m aware, to rectify this anamoly. It’s obviously too late for those already murdered but unless he acts immediately there is unlikely to be justice for future victims.