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Sandra is an elite swimmer who turned 18 in June 2023. For a third of her life, she was up at 4.00 am and down to the pool for training. Her dream was to swim for Australia at the Olympics. Sandra competed a few times at the open Australian Swimming Championships (ASC) and managed a gold

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Sandra is an elite swimmer who turned 18 in June 2023. For a third of her life, she was up at 4.00 am and down to the pool for training. Her dream was to swim for Australia at the Olympics. Sandra competed a few times at the open Australian Swimming Championships (ASC) and managed a gold medal and two silvers, and once, Sandra competed in the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships. But in the last couple of years, Sandra’s form had been slipping. Sports commentators said that she always appeared to be in great physical shape, but somehow, she seemed to have lost her edge.

Sandra met her swimming coach, Peter, when she was 13 years of age. When Sandra was 15, just after her best swimming performance at the ASC, Peter initiated an unlawful sexual relationship with Sandra. That relationship included regular acts of sexual intercourse which ended only on Peter’s death. Sandra never went to the police, but you can assume that Peter’s conduct would have breached several provisions of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) including at different times, ss 66C(4), 66EA(1), 73(1) and 73(2).

Sandra recognised that Peter’s conduct was a form of abuse and in December 2023, Sandra decided it had to end. She had tried to end the sexual aspects of the relationship before. But, as her coach, Peter had power over Sandra’s swimming career as well as the personal power that flowed from the years of grooming and fostering Sandra’s feelings of dependency. The sexual relationship made Sandra feel confused, powerless, trapped and full of rage and despair. On the one hand, Sandra still harboured hopes that her Olympic dream was not over. And Sandra believed (because Peter had told her so for many years) that she needed him if she was ever to succeed. On the other hand, she blamed Peter for her emotional turmoil and her inability to focus, and she wished she had another coach.

Sandra’s father was a veterinarian. On 12th December 2023, Sandra was feeling overwhelmed and decided to free herself of Peter permanently. She went to her father’s veterinary practice and stole some Ketamine and a hypodermic syringe. Sandra knew that Ketamine was used in veterinary practice as an anaesthetic and recreationally by ‘druggies’ and she knew it could be deadly. Her plan was, on their next meeting in Peter’s apartment, to inject him with enough Ketamine to kill him.

The next day, Sandra was having doubts. She decided instead that she would use the Ketamine to give Peter a solid scare, to jolt him into realising how badly she needed the abuse to stop. Sandra googled to get information about the right dose of Ketamine to administer. The pages Sandra viewed did not give precise information about dosage, but all said that Ketamine was a drug with potentially dangerous side-effects and that overdose could be fatal.

On 14 th December 2023, Sandra saw Peter at the pool. He asked her to come to his apartment that night. At home, after training, Sandra thought about Ketamine dosage. Sandra knew nothing about the dosage used in her father’s practice, but the practice dealt mainly with domestic pets, so she thought that a full vial administered to a human would probably not cause an overdose. Sandra loaded the hypodermic syringe with the full vial of Ketamine, but she decided that first, she would have another try at asking Peter to stop the abuse.

Shortly after arriving at Peter’s place, Sandra told him she wanted the sexual relationship to end. Peter gave her his familiar line that the intimacy a coach has with his top sports star was integral to the success of the coaching process and that the real problem was Sandra’s lack of trust in him. Peter told Sandra that he would not allow her to undermine his plan for her success and would not allow her to

change coaches. After half an hour of debate, Sandra was becoming frustrated, angry and desperate to regain control in her life. She took the syringe from her purse and stabbed it into Peter’s shoulder, telling him she was not having sex with him ever again. Then she left the apartment.

Two hours after Sandra left Peter’s apartment, Peter fell from the balcony of his 8th-floor apartment to the concrete pool deck below. The autopsy report said that Peter died from the impact of the fall. The toxicology report said that Peter had enough Ketamine in his system to cause hallucinations, confusion, clumsiness, anxiety, panic and detachment from reality. He was alone in the apartment when he went over the balcony. There was no evidence of depression or suicidality before his death. An expert report concluded that Peter was likely to have been suffering from Ketamine-induced psychosis and that could have caused him to fall or jump from the balcony.

Sandra was arrested and referred to a psychiatrist, Dr Freud, for assessment. Dr Freud concluded that Sandra was not suffering from any mental health or cognitive impairment at the time of injecting Peter with Ketamine. Sandra explained to Dr Freud that in childhood she had felt very disciplined and controlled, completely able to focus on her goals. But since Peter started having sex with her, she increasingly felt powerlessness and frustration at having no control over her life. By December, those feelings completely dominated her thoughts. The feelings erupted in the 48 hours before Peter’s death.

Is Sandra criminally liable for murder or manslaughter on the foregoing facts? Explain why Sandra is or is not liable for murder and manslaughter (ensuring that you consider relevant forms of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter). Bearing in mind that charges can be presented to the jury as alternatives, make sure that you cover all arguable possibilities for convicting Sandra of murder and manslaughter. NB: All events occurred in NSW.

 

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