Australia’s divergent legal responses to women who kill their intimate partners
Ms Caitlin Nash1, Dr Rachel Dioso-Villa1
1Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia
Women who kill in response to domestic abuse struggle to have their experiences appropriately accommodated within the legal system. This issue has driven several legal reforms throughout Australia in recent years with the expressed intention to improve access to defences for abused women, although these legal changes have gone in divergent directions. This presentation will consider the different approaches Australian jurisdictions have taken to address this issue and the legal changes that have been introduced. It then presents the findings of a study that examined 69 Australian cases of women charged with killing an abusive partner from 2010-2020, considering how the law reforms have impacted on the legal treatment of abused women. It found that while many reforms expanded defences to homicide based upon an assumption that women kill their abusers in non-confrontational situations, most of the female defendants resorted to lethal violence during a physical or verbal confrontation. Although many of these cases involved traditional elements of self-defence with the female defendant responding to an immediate threat of harm, abused women continue to plead guilty to manslaughter in order for the prosecution to withdraw the murder charges against them. The presentation reveals the limitations of law reforms to improve access to justice for abused women, and calls for an increased focus on the pre-trial stage of criminal proceeding and charging practices, and to address persistent misconceptions and stereotypes associated with domestic abuse.
Bio to come