My matter is for the Attorney-General.
It is about some practical problems associated with laws of attempted crime in Victoria.
More specifically, it is about the ongoing difficulty for prosecutors in successfully proving the charge of attempted murder.
As Ms Hennessy will know, it has long been the case that the overwhelming majority of individuals charged with attempted murder are never convicted of that offence.
In fact, the most recent sets of concurrent data from the Sentencing Advisory Council and the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that only around 1 in 20 attempted murder charges were successfully prosecuted between 2013 and 2018.
There are a few different reasons for this state of affairs. However, as Shannon Deery and Genevieve Alison outlined very clearly in a 2019 Herald Sun article, the main one is that a conviction for attempted murder hinges on proving that the accused specifically intended the victim to die.
In short, the relevant wording (about the general law of attempt) in Section 321N of the Crimes Act actually renders it easier to prove a charge of murder than attempted murder.
A murder charge can lead to a guilty verdict where there is either an intent to kill or to cause serious harm. By contrast, the successful prosecution of attempted murder is only possible where it is the intent to kill that is definitively proven.
That is, the mens rea is much narrower. This has meant that attempted crimes have also become more conducive than many other offences to the process of plea bargaining – an increasingly problematic process in Victoria.
I won’t (indeed I don’t have sufficient time to) go through some of these in detail now, but there is no shortage of examples of cases in which an attempted murder charge has ultimately needed to be downgraded to a less serious charge in order to secure a guilty verdict.
Of course, these outcomes are often devastating for victims and their loved ones – who, typically and quite rightly, expect far longer gaol sentences to be imposed on the accused for what are generally barbaric crimes.
The action I seek from the Attorney-General is an indication of whether she considers there may be cause to contemplate (and potentially implement) changes to the Crimes Act in these respects.
In particular, I ask for her advice on whether she agrees there may be merit in exploring alterations to the wording of Section 321N so that an intention to cause serious injury or harm could become a baseline criterion for attempted murder convictions.