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Negligently Causing Serious Injury

– section 24 of the Crimes Act 1958

Negligently Causing Serious Injury is when you do something, or you don’t do something, and as a result, another person is seriously injured. You must have failed to exercise care in a way that is generally required.
Negligently causing serious injury
This offence is generally heard in the County Court.
 
Examples of Negligently Causing Serious Injury
  • You are Snapchatting while driving, and you crash into the car in front of you, causing the other driver to have their leg amputated.
Elements: What is the legal definition of Negligently Causing Serious Injury?
The Prosecution must prove that you owed the victim a duty of care and you breached that duty. Your act or omission, which breached the duty of care, was committed consciously, voluntarily and deliberately. The breach of your duty caused the victim to suffer a “serious injury”.

Legislation
The section that covers this offence is section 24 of the Crimes Act 1958.
 
What are some of the possible defences to a charge of Negligently Causing Serious Injury?
  • You did not owe a duty of care.
  • You did not cause serious injury.
  • You were not negligent.
  • You were under duress or there was an emergency.
There are other possible defences, depending on the circumstances surrounding the alleged offending. Each matter is unique and requires an individual approach and strategy.

Questions in cases like this
  • What did you do or not do?
  • Do you have a lawful excuse for your actions?
  • Can they prove that you seriously injured another person?
“Did your actions cause serious injury to another person?”

The maximum penalty for this offence is 10 years imprisonment.
 
Sentencing in the higher courts
There were 60 cases (188 charges) of Negligently Causing Serious Injury that were heard in the higher courts of Victoria from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2016. They resulted mostly in Imprisonment (68.3%) but there were also a few that led to Youth Justice Centre Order (11.7%), Community Correction Order (10%), Partially Suspended Sentence (5%), and Wholly Suspended Sentence (5%).

The highest prison term imposed was between 14 and 15 years although this was applied in only 2.4% of the cases that resulted in imprisonment. Majority were sentenced to a term between 3 and 4 years (39%).1

Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in the higher courts earlier than that of the Magistrates’ Court, and therefore all offences committed on or after 1 September 2013 will not have this available as a sentencing option.2

Sentencing in the Magistrates’ Courts
In the Magistrates’ Courts, 37 cases (49 charges) of Negligently Causing Serious Injury were heard from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2016. These resulted in the following penalties:

  • Imprisonment – 35.1%
  • Wholly Suspended Sentence – 29.7%
  • Community Correction Order – 16.2%
  • Fine – 16.2%
  • Undertaking/Discharge/Dismissal – 2.7%
Of the total number of cases heard, 13 were sentenced to prison with the majority falling under the category “6 < 12 months". The highest term imposed was 36+ months (15.4%).3

Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in Victoria for all offences committed on or after 1 September 2014.4


[1] Sentencing Advisory Council. “SACStat Higher Courts – Crimes Act 1958 (Vic): s 24 – causing serious injury negligently.” SentencingCouncil.vic.gov.au. https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/higher_courts/HC_6231_24.html (accessed February 18, 2019).
[2] Sentencing Advisory Council. “Suspended Sentence.” SentencingCouncil.vic.gov.au. https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/about-sentencing/sentencing-options-for-adults/suspended-sentence (accessed February 18, 2019).
[3] Sentencing Advisory Council. “SAC Statistics – Crimes Act 1958 (Vic): s 24 – negligently causing serious injury.” SentencingCouncil.vic.gov.au. https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/magistrates_court/6231_24.html (accessed February 18, 2019).
[4] Sentencing Advisory Council. “Suspended Sentence.” SentencingCouncil.vic.gov.au. https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/about-sentencing/sentencing-options-for-adults/suspended-sentence (accessed February 18, 2019).

 

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