Having completed a major review of succession laws in 2013, the Commission welcomes the referral of this related but distinct area of the law.
The forfeiture rule arises from a fundamental principle that is at the heart of our legal system:
no one should benefit from their criminal conduct. At the same time, it is sharply focused on a specific source of gain: homicide.
This, the most serious of crimes, is sanctioned by the harshest of sentences. The forfeiture rule, that no one who unlawfully kills another can share in the victim’s estate or receive any other financial gain from the death, appears appropriate and immutable.
Experience in applying the rule has shown that the effect of the rule is not always fair. The Commission’s reference provides the opportunity to review the operation of the rule and the steps that have been taken elsewhere in Australia and overseas to address the injustices that can arise, yet preserve the underlying principle.
This consultation paper opens discussions about the issues arising from the terms of reference.
I encourage anyone who has experience in the application of the forfeiture rule or other insights into the questions raised in the paper to make a submission by 28 April 2014.
The Hon. P. D. Cummins
Victorian Law Reform Commission
Victorian Law Reform Commission, Succession Laws, Report No 26 (2013).