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FED: Murder laws must change: ACT police

Wed Jul 22 18:39:33 EST 2009
Subject: [Fwd: FED: Murder laws must change: ACT police] name="FED: Murder laws must change: ACT police.eml" filename="FED: Murder laws must change: ACT police.eml" Subject: FED: Murder laws must change: ACT police FED: Murder laws must change: ACT police

CANBERRA, July 22 AAP - When it comes to murder, Canberra is dead out of touch with the rest of the country.

For more than a decade, there has not been a single murder conviction upheld in the national capital.

And that's prompted ACT police to call for the definition of murder, as applied in the territory, to be changed.

The ACT remains the only jurisdiction in the country where the intent to seriously harm someone does not fall under the definition of murder.

In 2005, Canberra man Glen Porritt stabbed his mother 57 times at the family home, but was found not guilty because the judge ruled his only intention was to cause serious harm.

He was found guilty of manslaughter.

A public inquiry into the proposed changes has been told this case, and recent ones like it, proved the ACT was out of step with the rest of Australia.

The ACT's chief police officer, Leanne Close, said in a submission to the inquiry that the Porritt case, and three other recent examples, showed what constituted murder in other states seemed to not apply in the territory.

The ACT government has already thrown its weight behind making changes and tabled an amendment to the current laws in December last year.

Ms Close said it was "an appropriate law enforcement response as it holds the offender accountable for the result of the harm deliberately done".

She related separate cases of a burglar who fatally stabbed a good samaritan, a five-year-old girl beaten to death by her de facto dad and another man who stabbed his mother so hard it hit her spine.

In all those cases, the murder charges failed to stick and the accused were convicted of manslaughter.

The inquiry's chairwoman, Vicki Dunne, said there was a fear in the Canberra community that current laws were shackling justice.

"But there are a range of views in the submissions that vary from something must be done, to nothing should be done, and some views in between," she told AAP.

Lawyers and civil liberty groups believe the proposed changes would constitute a "watering down" of the most serious crime on the statute books.

They were expected to tell the hearing to consider increasing sentences for those convicted of manslaughter as a way of delivering a harsher form of justice.

Ms Dunne said the community needed confidence in the legal system to adequately punish offenders.

A second public hearing will be held next Wednesday.

AAP cj/kms/it/de


FED: Murder laws must change: ACT police