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Press release to correct the errors appeared in your Newspaper on Wednesday 1st April 2015, Issue 1945

The Solomon Islands Law Reform Commission (Commission) wishes to make this press release in response to incorrect information published in your Newspaper (Island Sun) on Wednesday 1st April 2015, Issue 1945. The errors were numerous under the different article headings on and related to the Solomon Islands Law Reform Commission launching of the Homicide Offences Consultation Paper.

The Commission’s role in law reform

The current Commission’s role is to review the existing laws of Solomon Islands, as directed by the Minister responsible for Justice (through terms of references), to bring them into harmony with current conditions, eliminate defects, simplify the law and assume new and more efficient methods for the administration of the law and the dispensation of justice.

The Commission reports back to the Minister responsible for Justice in a form of report containing recommendations for changes to the law.

The Homicide Offences Review

The Homicide Offences review is conducted under the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code Reference. The launching of the Homicide Offences Consultation Paper begins the public consultation process on the review of the laws on homicide and related homicide offences. The review in particular, focuses on murder and manslaughter. It also covers other related homicide offences such as suicide, infanticide and reckless or dangerous driving causing death. Further, the paper discusses the sentencing law on murder, specifically mandatory life imprisonment and the early releases mechanism – the parole mechanism.

The purpose of this Consultation Paper is to seek responses from stakeholders, interested parties and the public on possible reforms to the current laws on homicide offences. The Commission would like to hear views from stakeholders on the issues raised in the Paper or other issues related to homicide offences for possible reform of our laws on homicide to better serve and protect the people of Solomon Islands.

One of the issued discussed in the Consultation Paper is the current degree of culpability for murder. The Penal Code contains a two-tier structure for ‘murder’ and ‘manslaughter’ which is one of the reasons for low guilty pleas by the accused, as there is little reason to do so as the penalty for murder is a mandatory life sentence, irrespective of whether the accused pleads guilty or not guilty.

An example of a law reform proposal to remove the two-tier structure for murder and manslaughter was proposed by the United Kingdom Law Commission which recommended that murder should be categorised into different degrees; first degree murder, second degree murder, and manslaughter. The rationale for this proposal is that ‘individual offences of homicide should exist within a graduated system or hierarchy of offences’. Such a system would allow the law to reflect the degree of seriousness of the offence. This would allow mandatory life sentences to be reserved for the most serious kind of killing, whilst allowing discretionary life sentences for other less serious killings. The Commission discussed this proposal in order to stimulate discussions as it engages with public.

Another issue of review is the consideration of the parole mechanism for those convicted for murder. Currently, there are no clear provisions of the law for a court to set or recommend a minimum term of sentence that a convicted murderer can serve before he or she is eligible to apply for parole. The Commission touches on the parole mechanism in this context; it does not review the parole mechanism.

Thank you

Solomon Islands Law Reform Commission

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