Bill Speech: Crimes Amendment (Manslaughter and Related Offences) Bill 2020

Ms SPENCE (Yuroke) (18:54): I rise to speak on the Crimes Amendment (Manslaughter and Related Offences) Bill 2020, and like many of those before me I do so with mixed emotions. I am glad that this bill creates a new offence of homicide by firearm, but I am really sad that there have been multiple instances where such offending has occurred. My thoughts are with the families of those women who have lost their lives to such violence, and I thank the families of those women for their ongoing advocacy for these changes.

What we have seen in recent years has been several shooting cases where offenders were sentenced for manslaughter after claiming that they did not intend for the firearm to discharge. These cases have often arisen from circumstances where the offender has shot and killed their victim, often their female partner, in an isolated or private place, often the family home, where there had been no witnesses as the victim was now deceased. There may even have been a history of relationship violence; however, murder has not been able to be proven. Karen Belej, Tamara Turner, Rekiah O’Donnell and Kara Doyle were all shot and killed by their partners, who were later convicted of manslaughter.

Under the current sentencing regime the sentences imposed have tended to fall well short of community expectations and the expectations of their grieving families, but this bill includes a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment. By creating this separate homicide by firearm offence the government is making it clear that criminals who use firearms dangerously and cause another person’s death should receive tougher sentences, whether the death was intended or not. The label of homicide will also send a clear message that the dangerous handling of firearms will not be tolerated by the law and that those who handle these dangerous weapons have a responsibility to act with care.

I also want to note that I am particularly supportive of this bill as the local member for Yuroke. In my electorate we have a couple of disturbing trends: one, we have an unfortunately high level of firearm offences, and secondly, we have a terribly high level of family violence offences. These are both unfortunately trending up. I want to see those trends turn around, and I want to see them trend down. I want to see them both decline, and what I do not want is to see them both combine.

I also want to reiterate my comments from a few moments ago that this bill sends a strong message. It makes it very clear to those who want to play with guns: you carry a very high responsibility. Excuses will not be tolerated. If you take the life of another, whether you intend it or not, a tough sentence awaits. This bill strengthens Victoria’s homicide laws to ensure that those who commit the most serious crimes receive sentences of imprisonment that better reflect their culpability for causing the death of another.

I thank the Attorney-General for bringing this bill to the Parliament. It is an important bill that honours our commitment to introduce a homicide by firearms offence. It makes it clear what our expectations are in regard to the sentencing of those who take the life of another, and it provides the tools to enable the courts to impose sentences that reflect community expectations.

I truly hope that it serves as a deterrent to protect further Victorians from the firearm violence that has taken the lives of far too many in recent years. It is an important bill, and it strengthens our homicide laws to ensure those that commit the most serious crimes receive sentences of imprisonment that better reflect their culpability. I commend the bill to the house.

I am happy to keep going, because my clock is different to the clock that the Deputy Speaker is looking at. Sorry about that!

The minister has done an absolutely outstanding job. In the minister’s second-reading speech she also noted that she had met with the families of the victims, and I expect absolutely nothing less from this minister. She is an outstanding Attorney-General, and I am quite sure that when she met with those families she would have taken great note of the distress that they have been through. These victims’ families have been through enormous grief that has not been recognised by the courts because they do not have the tools to be able to provide sentences that meet community expectations. What they now have is the tools under this bill. The level of imprisonment that this bill provides, the 25 years maximum, will enable the courts to provide sentences that adequately reflect the seriousness of this crime. Carrying around guns and using guns as a weapon in relationships is not appropriate. We have seen far too many of these offences taking place. It is certainly not acceptable. I do not want to see—

Business interrupted under sessional orders.