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8.13 - Suicide Pact

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Partial Defence to Murder

  1. When the accused is charged with murder, the jury may return a verdict of manslaughter by suicide pact where they are satisfied that:
  2. Unlike other forms of manslaughter, the maximum penalty for manslaughter by suicide pact is 10 years’ imprisonment (Crimes Act 1958 s6B(1A)).

    Elements

  3. There are three matters the defence must prove on the balance of probabilities to establish this partial defence:
    1. There was an agreement between the accused and the deceased to seek the death of all parties to the agreement (a "suicide pact");
    2. The accused’s acts that caused the death of the deceased were committed in pursuance of the suicide pact; and
    3. At the time he or she caused the death, the accused had the settled intention of dying pursuant to the agreement (Crimes Act 1958 s6B(4)).
  4. An agreement which has as its object the death of all of the parties to it will be a suicide pact, regardless of whether each party to the agreement is to take his or her own life (Crimes Act 1958 s6B(4)).
  5. The accused must prove the existence of an actual suicide pact. It is not sufficient to prove that the accused held an honest and reasonable belief in the existence of a suicide pact (R v Iannazzone [1983] 1 VR 649).
  6. Passively allowing another person to commit suicide or hasten his or her own death does not give rise to a suicide pact (H Ltd v J (2010) 107 SASR 352).

    Onus of Proof

  7. The accused bears the onus of establishing, on the balance of probabilities, that he or she killed the deceased pursuant to the suicide pact. If the accused fails to establish this matter, then the appropriate verdict will be guilty of murder (Crimes Act 1958 s6B(1). See also R v Sciretta [1977] VR 139).

    Liability of Third Parties

  8. The existence of a suicide pact does not affect the criminal liability of a person who is a party to the homicide, but is not a party to the suicide pact (Crimes Act 1958 s6B(3)).

    Related Offences

  9. Suicide itself is no longer a crime (Crimes Act 1958 s6A).
  10. Crimes Act 1958 s6B(2) creates three specialised suicide-related offences, which may be relevant where the accused’s actions did not directly cause the death of the deceased:

Last updated: 14 December 2010

In This Section

8.13.1 - Charge: Suicide Pact

See Also

Victorian Criminal Charge Book

Part 1: Preliminary Direction

1.1 – Introductory Remarks

1.2 – Jury Empanelment

1.3 – Selecting a Foreperson

1.4 – The Role of Judge and Jury

1.5 – Decide Solely on the Evidence

1.6 – Assessing Witnesses

1.7 – Onus and Standard of Proof

1.8 - Separate Consideration

1.9 - Alternative verdicts

1.10 – Trial Procedure

1.11 - Consolidated preliminary directions

Part 2: Directions in Running

2.1 - Views

2.2 - Providing Documents to the Jury

2.3 – Other Procedures for Taking Evidence

2.4 – Unavailable witnesses

2.5 – Witness invoking Evidence Act 2008 s128

Part 3: Final Directions

3.1 - Directions Under Jury Directions Act 2015

3.2 - Overview of Final Directions

3.3 - Review of the Role of the Judge and Jury

3.4 - Review of the Requirement to Decide Solely on the Evidence

3.5 - Review of the Assessment of Witnesses

3.6 - Circumstantial Evidence and Inferences

3.7 - Review of the Onus and Standard of Proof

3.8 - Review of Separate Consideration

3.9 - Judge’s Summing Up on Issues and Evidence

3.10 - Alternative Verdicts

3.11 - Unanimous Verdicts and Extended Jury Unanimity

3.12 - Taking Verdicts

3.13 - Perseverance and Majority Verdict Directions

3.14 - Intermediaries and ground rules explained

3.15 - Concluding Remarks

3.16 - Consolidated final directions

Part 4: Evidentiary Directions

4.1 - The Accused as a Witness

4.2 - Child Witnesses

4.3 - Character Evidence

4.4 - Prosecution Witness's Motive to Lie

4.5 - Confessions and Admissions

4.6 - Incriminating Conduct (Post Offence Lies and Conduct)

4.7 - Corroboration (General Principles)

4.8 - Delayed Complaint

4.9 - Distress

4.10 - Prosecution Failure to Call or Question Witnesses

4.11 - Defence Failure to Call Witnesses

4.12 - Failure to Challenge Evidence (Browne v Dunn)

4.13 - Identification Evidence

4.14 - Opinion Evidence

4.15 - Previous Representations (Hearsay, Recent Complaint and Prior Statements)

4.16 - Silence in Response to People in Authority

4.17 - Silence in Response to Equal Parties

4.18 - Tendency Evidence

4.19 - Coincidence Evidence

4.20 - Other forms of other misconduct evidence

4.21 - Unfavourable Witnesses

4.22 - Unreliable Evidence Warning

4.23 - Criminally Concerned Witness Warnings

4.24 - Prison Informer Warnings

4.25 - Word Against Word Cases

4.26 - Differences in a Complainant’s Account

4.27 - Alibi

Part 5: Complicity

5.1 - Overview

5.2 - Statutory Complicity (From 1/11/14)

5.3 - Joint Criminal Enterprise (Pre-1/11/14)

5.4 - Extended Common Purpose (Pre-1/11/14)

5.5 - Aiding, Abetting, Counselling or Procuring (Pre-1/11/14)

5.6 - Assist Offender

5.7 – Commonwealth Complicity (s 11.2)

5.8 – Commonwealth Joint Commission (s 11.2A)

5.9 - Innocent Agent (Victorian Offences)

5.10 - Commission by Proxy (Commonwealth offences)

Part 6: Conspiracy, Incitement and Attempts

6.1 - Conspiracy to Commit an Offence (Victoria)

6.2 - Conspiracy (Commonwealth)

6.3 - Incitement (Victoria)

6.4 - Attempt (Victoria)

Part 7: Victorian Offences

7.1 - General Directions

7.2 - Homicide

7.3 - Sexual Offences

7.4 - Other Offences Against the Person

7.5 - Dishonesty and Property Offences

7.6 - Drug Offences

7.7 – Occupational Health and Safety

7.8 - Offences against justice

Part 8: Victorian Defences

8.1 - Statutory Self-Defence (From 1/11/14)

8.2 - Statutory Self-Defence (Pre - 1/11/14) and Defensive Homicide

8.3 - Common Law Self-Defence

8.4 - Mental Impairment

8.5 - Statutory Intoxication (From 1/11/14)

8.6 - Statutory Intoxication (23/11/05 - 31/10/14)

8.7 - Common Law Intoxication

8.8 - Automatism

8.9 - Statutory Duress (From 1/11/14)

8.10 - Statutory Duress (23/11/05 - 31/10/14)

8.11 - Common Law Duress

8.12 - Provocation

8.14 - Powers of arrest

8.15 - Police search and seizure powers without a warrant

Part 9: Commonwealth Offences

9.1 - Commonwealth Drug Offences

9.2 - People Smuggling (Basic Offence)

9.3 - People Smuggling (5 or More People)

9.4 - Use of carriage service for child pornography material

Part 10: Unfitness to Stand Trial

10.1 – Investigations into Unfitness to Stand Trial

10.2 – Special Hearings