Garry Mills lives in Ipswich, just outside of Brisbane. Mills was convicted of strangling his wife Jolene with an extension cord until she died. He then wrapped her body in garbage bags and buried her in the bush.
He served five years in prison.
Damian Sebo bludgeoned his former girlfriend Taryn Hunt to death. Taryn was 16-years-old when she died, but Damian was sentenced to only eight years in prison.
Taryn’s mother Jennifer explained that ‘the impact was so great it shattered the back of her skull, and radiated all the way through to the frontal lobes.’
Chamanjot Singh slit the throat of his wife Manpreet Kaur, despite her begging him for mercy. She eventually bled to death from the eight different wounds he inflicted on her body. Singh served six years in prison.
And Peter Keogh who stabbed his ex-partner Vicki Cleary, resulting in her death severed a prison sentence of just three years and 11 months. Keogh was still covered in Vicki’s blood when he told the police that he had been ‘provoked’.
Each of these men would have been convicted of murder but instead they served prison sentences for the lesser crime of manslaughter. Why? Because they were ‘provoked’ by the women they went on to kill.
PRESENTER, TARA BROWN: The provocation defence is a legal relic that is centuries old. The question is: does it have any place in modern Australia? Because all too often it’s being used as an excuse by a man who kills a woman because of something she is alleged to have said or done. And because she is dead, we have only his word to rely on. Clearly he has the most to gain by blaming his victim, ruining her reputation, making sure she is the one on trial.
WOMEN’S RIGHTS CAMPAIGNER, PHIL CLEARY: It’s a fallacy to think that the killing is just about a person being out of control. So often the killing of women is a ruthless revenge killing. Revenge for the woman asserting her human rights like her desire to be free of a man, for example.
TARA: Women’s rights campaigner Phil Cleary knows what it’s like to lose a loved one in a brutal crime, only to be told she provoked her killer. His sister Vicki was killed by ex-partner Peter Keogh, as she arrived at work in a Melbourne kindergarten. How many times did he stab her?
PHIL: Oh, he would have stabbed her at least a dozen times – he stabbed her in the face, he stabbed her in the stomach several times, I think there’d be four or five serious wounds to her stomach, and the one that pierced her stomach and cut her liver was the one that ended her life.
TARA BROWN: Soon after, Keogh, still covered in Vicki’s blood, claim she provoked him by swearing at him – an excuse the jury accepted. He got just three years and 11 months in gaol.
PHIL: Could anyone believe he would get three years and 11 months in jail? Of course not.
TARA BROWN: How is it that 12 jurors think that that behaviour is acceptable?
PHIL: The reality is that jurors seem to fall for the lie that women are bad, that women are provocative. And sadly, this is told again and again in courtrooms across Australia.
Provocation has been abolished as a defence in Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. NSW is currently holding a parliamentary inquiry into the law and one of the questions that has been raised is should the defence of provocation be abolished.
Mamamia spoke to Betty Green, Chair of the NSW Domestic Violence Committee Coalition, who had this to say:
Killings on a background of domestic violence are distinctly different than other homicides and as such should be treated differently. We do know that the killing of women by current or former partners is not an occasional occurrence, or a phenomenon that happens once in a while.
In Australia on average 76 women are killed annually by an intimate partner. In fact women are 9 times more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than by a stranger. Sobering thought isn’t it?
When men kill an intimate partner it is usually linked to jealousy, revenge and honour. There is an established history of violence and there is an escalation of the violence.
These facts challenge the popular myths and misconceptions we as a community may hold about the circumstances that lead to the death of a woman in domestic violence. Media often describe the killings as being “out of the blue”, “a brain snap” or a “loss of control”.
In reality this is not the case.
There is too much evidence from research that tells us that the killing of women in intimate relationships occurs where there is a history of violence by the perpetrator against the victim; jealousy, separation and women’s attempts to leave the relationship, infidelity either perceived or actual, substance abuse, threats and the use of weapons, especially knives and guns.
The defence of provocation rests on allegations that the man has been “humiliated, insulted, mocked or spurned”. The very idea of these allegations comes from a long gone era when men carried lethal weapons and acted in accordance with a code of honour which required insult to be responded to by instant retaliation as an act of restoration.
The sentence for murder was death, which is why the defence of provocation was introduced so that defendants could claim they were provoked by word or action that caused offence.
We believe in out modern society this is wrong.
Over to you. Should a person’s conviction be reduced from murder to manslaughter if they were ‘provoked’ into killing someone?
White Ribbon report that men and women experience violence differently: “Men are much less likely than women to be subject to violent incidents in the home and are more likely to be assaulted in public places. Violence against men is far more likely to be by strangers and far less likely to involve partners or ex-partners. Of all the violence men experience, far less is represented by domestic violence (less than 1 percent, versus one-third of violent incidents against women). Boys and men are most at risk of physical harm, injury and death from other boys and men, but small numbers are subject to violence by women.”