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Intimate partner homicide: Themes in Judges' sentencing remarks

Whittle, Marion (2017) Intimate partner homicide: Themes in Judges' sentencing remarks. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The aim of this study was to undertake a grounded theory analysis of judges' sentencing remarks for males and females sentenced for intimate partner homicide in Australia between July 2009 and June 2014. The purpose of the study was to compare the themes present when males were sentenced with themes present when females were sentenced.

Four key themes emerged from the data: provocation; domestic violence; the sentencing of Aboriginal offenders; and the use of alcohol and/or drugs as a contributing factor to the offence.

Broadly speaking the data relating to provocation reflect that the defence of provocation continues to be gender biased; favouring males as the main beneficiaries. Pertaining to the theme of domestic violence, the data indicate that judges underestimate the significance of domestic violence and continue to obscure male offender responsibility and deliberate acts of violence towards women.

Regarding the sentencing of Aboriginal offenders, the data show that Aboriginal males predominately kill their partners in a drunken, violent and at times frenzied attack, compared to Aboriginal females who kill their partners against a background of prolonged domestic violence victimisation. Also, in the context of the whole study, a quantitative analysis of the data found that in terms of sentencing penalties, Aboriginal males were, in some ways, sanctioned less harshly than non-Aboriginal males.

Concerning the final key theme, the data show that despite the seriousness of the offence, judges repeatedly fail to clearly attribute a sufficient degree of responsibility to male offenders for their voluntary consumption of alcohol and drugs; and their subsequent violent behaviour. Also, more blameworthiness is attributed to non-Aboriginal female offenders, who, when in an alcohol or drug induced state are judicially considered incapable of taking control of their lives.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Law
Supervisor(s): Hall, Guy, Riegler, Anahita, Murray, Michael and Field, Courtney
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