- The recent High Court case of IL v The Queen  HCA 27 examined the law of joint criminal enterprise liability as it relates to felony murder.
- Section 18 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) is not engaged where a person kills themselves either intentionally or accidentally. An offence of murder or manslaughter cannot, therefore, be committed where a person kills himself or herself in an attempt to commit, or during or immediately after the commission of a crime punishable by 25 years or life in prison.
- The case confirms that the principle of joint criminal enterprise liability can apply to s 18 of the Crimes Act 1900.
The recent High Court decision of IL v The Queen  HCA 27 examined the law of joint criminal enterprise liability as it relates to ‘felony’ or ‘constructive’ murder.
The appellant was tried in the Supreme Court of New South Wales on charges of manufacturing a large quantity of a prohibited drug, namely, methylamphetamine (count 1), murder (count 2a), and in the alternative, manslaughter (count 2b).
The Crown case in relation to count 1 was that the appellant was engaged in a joint criminal enterprise with Zhi Min Lan (‘the deceased’).
In relation to counts 2a and 2b, the Crown alleged that the appellant was guilty of ‘felony’ murder, because the act which caused the deceased’s death was committed during the course of the joint criminal enterprise to manufacture methylamphetamine, an offence which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Relevantly, the law relating to felony murder in s 18(1) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) (‘Crimes Act’) provides:
‘[m]urder shall be taken to have been committed where the act of the accused … causing the death charged, was done … during or immediately after the commission, by the accused or some accomplice with him or her, of a crime punishable by imprisonment for life or for 25 years.’
The deceased died when a burner ring in the poorly ventilated bathroom was lit, causing a fire.
Both the deceased and the appellant were present when the burner was lit, and the Crown could not exclude the possibility that it was the deceased who lit the burner, thus causing the fire and ultimately his own death.
The Crown argued that the fact that the burner was lit as part of the joint criminal enterprise meant that the appellant was criminally liable for all acts committed in the course of carrying out the enterprise for the purposes of s 18(1) of the Crimes Act.