SALRI to visit Mount Gambier for consultation on the forfeiture rule

The independent South Australian Law Reform Institute (SALRI) based at the Adelaide Law School is visiting Mt Gambier on 15 April 2019 to update the community about its work and to seek comments on its present reference into the forfeiture rule in unlawful homicide.

Professor John Williams, SALRI’s Director, noted that SALRI is always keen to obtain rural and regional input to its work and he especially hopes anyone interested in the forfeiture rule will attend SALRI’s community meeting at GTE Training Rooms, 173 Commercial Street West, Mount Gambier at 2.15 pm on 15 April.

‘This is an important reference. We want to hear your views concerning the forfeiture rule and on how the law in South Australia can be best improved. The forfeiture rule provides that any person who unlawfully causes the death of another is precluded from taking any benefit or inheritance as a result of the victim’s death. The rule dates from 1891 and has apparent absolute operation and has been held to apply to any example of murder and manslaughter.

Professor Williams explained: ‘The rule stems from a powerful maxim of public policy – that no person should benefit from his or her wrongdoing.’

Dr David Plater, SALRI’s Deputy Director, said that, whilst the underlying rationale of the forfeiture rule is sound, its scope and operation of the rule are contentious and uncertain.

‘In particular, the strict application of the forfeiture rule in various situations where a lesser degree of moral culpability is recognised has shown that the rule may lead to unfair outcomes such as in a ‘mercy killing’ or in a context of domestic violence where a victim of domestic violence kills an abusive spouse and is convicted of manslaughter on the basis of excessive self-defence or provocation. There may be need for some flexibility in some circumstances.’

Dr Sylvia Villios, the project lead author, notes that the technical application of the forfeiture rule in various succession and inheritance situations is also unclear and problematic. ‘Indeed, the rule may result in the sins of the unlawful killer been visited upon their blameless children.’

Dr Villios noted that the forfeiture rule has been modified in the UK, NSW, ACT and New Zealand and in its review, SALRI will look at these options.

SALRI will also be holding consultation sessions in Adelaide. Its consultation period ends on Friday 3 May 2019, so please get in quick with your feedback! Your experiences of the present law and views on any changes are very important.

You can provide your views by sending us a written submission or letter via email to; or by arranging to speak to us, or meet us in person.

The list of consultation questions is set out at:

Please do not feel obliged to answer every question. It may that a particular area is of interest.

On the basis of its research and consultation, SALRI will suggest ways in which the law in South Australia can be best improved. SALRI is due to provide a Report to the Government with recommendations about potential law reforms by the end of August 2019.

If you are interested in finding out more information about SALRI generally, please visit our website.

Pre-consultation discussions with Dr David Plater (SALRI Deputy Director), Dr Glenn Carrasco (UK Bar), Dr Sylvia Villios (SALRI Lead Researcher) and Terry Evans (SALRI Advisory Board Member)

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