Law, Defences & Penalties for Murder in NSW


Linda Brewer married her lover Robert Lee Yates and they had five beautiful children before they moved and settled in Washington, USA.

Linda’s hubby enjoyed going on camping trips and fishing. To her he was a military hero with a big heart of gold.

Yates would put on cologne before heading out to go on hunting trips- on his own.

In April 2000 after 6am in the morning, Linda woke up to police entering their family home. Her husband was arrested and charged with multiple murders.

Yates was a serial killer.

His trips out “hunting” actually involved him preying on unsuspecting vulnerable women. He would lure them into his vehicle before shooting them point blank in the head or heart.

After killing his victims, he would dump the body.

In 1975, Yates shot dead Susan Savage and Patrick Oliver who were out on a picnic together.

In 1988, Stacy Hawn’s body was found.

In 1997, multiple other dead bodies were discovered, including 16-year-old Jennifer Joseph who had run away from home.

In 1998, he shot 32-year-old Christine Smith, who managed to survive and got away from him. Luckily, she was able to provide police with a description of Yates.

On the morning police raised Linda’s home, police had found a further 5 dead bodies.

Yates eventually confessed to his crimes in an attempt to avoid the death penalty.

One of the most disturbing incidents included the fact that he had buried a body in the backyard of their family home.

The body of 43-year-old Melody Murfin was found in their backyard where she was placed in a makeshift grave only metres away from the couple’s bedroom window.

It is reported that Yates had wanted to see her “every day”.

He even planted flowers above her grave.

Linda said, “When you’re so close to somebody, you don’t see it”.

In the result, Yates eventually pleaded guilty in October 2000 to 13 charges of murder and a count of attempted murder.

He was sentenced by the court to 408 years imprisonment. Subsequent to this sentence, he was then guilty of two more murders before being sentenced to death

He is currently on death row.

Law, Defences & Penalties for Murder in NSW

The maximum punishment under the law in NSW for murder is life in prison, under section 19A Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

This means that if a person gets life imprisonment as a sentence for committing the crime of murder in NSW, he/she will be required to serve that sentence for the term of the person’s natural life under section 19A(2) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

The maximum life sentence can only be imposed on such an offender if the court’s convinced that the level of culpability in the crime is so extreme that the community interest in retribution, community protection, punishment and deterrence can only be satisfied through imposing a life imprisonment. (section 61(1) Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW)).

If a court isn’t satisfied that a life imprisonment should be imposed having considered the above factors, then the court will set a parole and non-parole period of imprisonment.

The non-parole period is the minimum period of full-time custody that the sentenced offender must spend before being eligible for release on a parole period back into the community.

The crime of murder, where a life imprisonment isn’t imposed, attracts a 20-year non-parole period if the case fits in the mid-range of objective seriousness for offences of this kind.

The 20-years standard non-parole period is used by Courts as a guide in sentencing an offender, and isn’t strictly imposed on all offenders who fall in such a category of offending of this kind.

It’s worthy to note that the 20-years standard non-parole period only applies to murders that occurred subsequent to 1 February 2003. It doesn’t apply before that date.

See our previous article on this topic for an outline on defences to murder in NSW under the law.

To be guilty of murder, the prosecution will be required to prove each of the following beyond reasonable doubt in court:

  1. The accused did a voluntary act causes death to the victim; and
  2. At such time, either one of the following apply:
    1. The accused intended to cause the death; or
    2. The accused intended to cause the victim a really serious injury or permanent or serious disfiguring; or
    3. The accused realised the probability of causing death from his/her conduct; or
    4. The accused was committing another crime that has a max punishment of at least 25-years jail (constructive murder).

For more information on this area of law, speak to one of our criminal lawyers in Parramatta & Sydney CBD in a free consultation today. Our team is available 24/7, and we specialise in criminal law.

About Jimmy Singh

Mr. Jimmy Singh is the Principal Lawyer at Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia - Leading Criminal Lawyers in Sydney, Delivering Exceptional Results in all Australian Criminal Courts.


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