12 November 2020
Tania Maxwell MP, Member for Northern Victoria, has asked the Victorian Attorney-General to address practical difficulties in the prosecution of the crime of attempted murder.
Ms Maxwell said that alterations to wording in the Crimes Act could potentially eliminate many of the problems associated with successful attempted murder convictions.
Through an adjournment matter in Parliament this week, Ms Maxwell said that it has become increasingly difficult for prosecutors to successfully prove the charge of attempted murder, and that it has long been the case that most individuals charged with attempted murder are never convicted of that offence.
Recent data from the Sentencing Advisory Council and the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that around one out of every 20 attempted murder charges between 2013 and 2018 were successfully prosecuted. Ms Maxwell said one of the reasons for this is that attempted murder convictions hinge on proving that the accused specifically intended the victim to die. This has led to the crime being very conducive to plea bargaining, a process that is also becoming increasingly problematic in Victoria.
Through her ongoing advocacy for victims of crime, Ms Maxwell has become aware of several instances where an attempted murder charge was ultimately downgraded to a less serious charge in order to secure a guilty verdict.
Ms Maxwell said it was important to recognise the effect of plea bargaining on victims of crime. She has sought from the Attorney-General an indication of whether she considers there may be cause to implement changes to the Crimes Act so that an intent to cause serious injury or harm could become a baseline criterion for attempted murder convictions.
Quotes attributed to Tania Maxwell:
“There is no shortage of cases in which an attempted murder charge has ultimately been downgraded to a less serious charge in order to secure a guilty verdict. Not only is this hugely traumatic for victims and their families, it is a waste of the time of the courts.”
“Plea bargaining is often devastating for victims and their loved ones, who typically, and quite rightly, expect a conviction that appropriately reflects the barbaric nature of the crime of attempted murder.”