The Court of Appeal today dismissed an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions against the sentence imposed on Harley David Woodford. The respondent had pleaded guilty to child homicide, and had been sentenced to nine years and six months’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of six years and six months.

The offence of child homicide, which replaced the offence of manslaughter for a child victim aged less than 6, carried the same maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment as that for manslaughter. This was only the second time that a charge of child homicide had been brought since the offence was introduced in 2008.  

On the date of the offence, the respondent tripped over his partner’s three year old daughter, reacted in anger, and stood on her abdomen. This resulted in her death the following day.  

Many months later, the respondent confessed to the offending. The sentencing judge found that, absent his confession, it may not have been possible to convict him of having caused the death of the child, given the uncertainty associated with how she had sustained her fatal injuries. The Court of Appeal held that, in accordance with established authority, this entitled him to a significant reduction in sentence, well beyond that normally available on a plea of guilty.

The Court of Appeal concluded that, in these unusual circumstances, having regard to the weight to be given, to the respondent’s confession (as well as other mitigating factors including his plea of guilty, his youth and his genuine remorse), the sentence, though undoubtedly lenient, could not be said to be wholly outside the range reasonably available to the sentencing judge. 

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NOTE: This summary is necessarily incomplete. It is not intended as a substitute for the Court’s reasons or to be used in later consideration of the Court’s reasons. The only authoritative pronouncement of the Court’s reasons and conclusions is that contained in the published reasons for judgement.

Read the Court's full judgment on AustLII (External link)

Author
Supreme Court of Victoria
Publisher
Supreme Court of Victoria
Date of Publication

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