The Court of Appeal (Maxwell ACJ, Tate and Beach JJA) today allowed an appeal against sentence by Ms Sawyer-Thompson who pleaded guilty to defensive homicide in 2014. [1]

By majority (Maxwell ACJ and Tate JA), the Court held that the sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of seven years was manifestly excessive. Ms Sawyer-Thompson was resentenced to six and a half years’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of five years. Beach JA, in dissent, said while it might be accepted that the sentence was stern, this was 'a far cry from a conclusion that the sentence was manifestly excessive'. 

The sentencing judge accepted that the killing took place at the direction of Ms Sawyer-Thompson’s violent and abusive partner, Mr Mifsud. The judge also accepted that Mr Mifsud had threatened to kill Ms Sawyer-Thompson’s family unless she killed the victim. 

Ms Sawyer-Thompson had been the subject of 'repeated acts of violence, degradation and humiliation at the hands of Mifsud, who was… a highly dangerous person'. In the view of the majority, the fact that she proceeded to kill the victim rather than attempting to flee, and that she used excessive violence, 'could only be understood through the lens of the sustained family violence she had experienced'.

The majority held that it was essential to assess the seriousness of the offending with an understanding of Ms Sawyer-Thompson’s belief that Mr Mifsud would carry out his threat of lethal violence and her unwavering submissiveness to Mr Mifsud and compliance with his demands.

[1] An offence which has since been abolished.

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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 any 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 judgment.

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

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

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