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University of New South Wales Faculty of Law Research Series

Faculty of Law, UNSW
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Lennan, Jo; Williams, George --- "The Death Penalty in Australian Law" [2013] UNSWLRS 12

Last Updated: 8 February 2013

The Death Penalty in Australian Law

Jo Lennan, University of New South Wales
George Williams, University of New South Wales

This paper is available for download at Available at


This paper was publsihed in (2012) Sydney Law Review, Vol 34, pp.659. This paper may also be referenced as [2013] UNSWLRS 12.


This article undertakes a comprehensive review of Australian legislation on the death penalty. It charts the legal progress towards abolition, detailing the successive moves by colonial, state, territory and Commonwealth legislatures to restrict and then completely abolish capital punishment. Most recently, the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Torture Prohibition and Death Penalty Abolition) Act 2010 (Cth) blocks any state or territory attempt to reinstate the death penalty. The article examines whether any action now remains to be taken in Australia in this area. It considers the extent to which laws and practices on extradition and policing might involve Australian authorities in processes leading to the imposition of the death penalty abroad. It is suggested that while the 2010 Act represents the last necessary step (save for constitutional entrenchment) to abolish the death penalty in Australia, action can still be taken as a matter of principled opposition to the death penalty to ensure that Australian officials are not involved in the imposition of capital punishment elsewhere.

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