A decade ago, a Gold Coast man who killed his teenage girlfriend escaped a murder charge by arguing that he was provoked by her infidelity. The Queensland government (the state’s then Attorney General Cameron Dick) stating – “We need a change to the law … just because you say something it doesn’t mean that you should be killed”.

Recently, another Queensland man has argued, successfully, that his suspected infidelity had provoked him into killing his partner in a fit of jealous rage. He also argued that he was further provoked when she picked up a knife to defend herself. The charge of murder was downgraded to manslaughter.

Legislation QLD

The Criminal Code 1999 (QLD) lays out the Defence of Provocation at section 269 where:

  1.  “A person is not criminally responsible for an assault committed upon a person who gives the person provocation for the assault…”; and
  2. Whether any particular act or insult is such as to be likely to deprive an ordinary person of the power of self-control and to induce the ordinary person to assault the person by whom the act or insult is done or offered…”

Government and Legal Responses

While Queensland has retained the partial defence of provocation, other Australian states have taken more decisive action. Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia, and South Australia have abolished the defence altogether. The Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory have restricted its use. New South Wales, however, has implemented a modified version known as “extreme provocation,” intended to protect victims of prolonged abuse while significantly limiting the defence’s applicability.

A man ran a similar argument in a NSW Court, and was rejected his argument including: “I’m not a bad person, I just snapped, you know? … I just snapped … she pushed me too far.”

Recognising these issues, Queensland’s Attorney General, Shannon Fentiman, has acknowledged the need for a comprehensive review of the provocation defence. The state’s women’s safety and justice taskforce is tasked with examining the defence within the broader context of domestic, family, and sexual violence cases. While the timeline for this review remains unclear, it signifies a critical step towards modernising the legal system.

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