Munda v. State of Western Australia

The accused, a 32-year-old Aboriginal man (Munda), killed his de facto wife during an argument by punching her in the face and head numerous times and ramming her head into the wall. Both were intoxicated, and Munda had used some cannabis. Munda had a history of alcohol and drug abuse. At the time of the incident Munda was subject to a lifetime violence restraining order prohibiting him from having any contact with the deceased. The order was imposed after a previous incident for which Munda was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm to the deceased. Munda and the deceased ignored the restraining order and chose to continue their relationship. Munda pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to five years, three months’ imprisonment. The prosecution appealed on the ground that the sentence was manifestly inadequate. Munda was resentenced to seven years, nine months’ imprisonment. Munda appealed to the High Court. The High Court noted that a just sentence must accord due recognition to the human dignity of the victim of domestic violence and the interest of the community in the denunciation and punishment of a “brutal, alcohol-fuelled destruction of a woman by her partner.” While the High Court acknowledged that Munda had a drug / alcohol addition, it held that courts must exercise caution in characterizing or treating an offender as a ‘victim’ because it can lead adult perpetrators to wrongly believe that they are not truly responsible for their conduct, which can lead to a failure to properly protect the community. While the High Court acknowledged that Munda’s severe social disadvantages must be considered, that consideration must be balanced with the seriousness of the offense. The court noted that indulging in drunken bouts of domestic violence is an example of moral culpability to a “very serious degree” and that this was not reflected in the original sentence. The appeal was dismissed by a majority (Bell J dissenting).



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