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R v Worrall

Susan Worrall - R v Worrall - manslaughter and mental illness

In October 2008, 20 year old Kathleen Worrall stabbed her younger sister Susan to death. She suffered more than fifty wounds. Kathleen was initially charged with the murder of her sister, which was later changed to manslaughter for which she pleaded guilty. Kathleen had a hormonal condition, congenital adrenal hyperplasia which leads to excess production of testosterone. It had been controlled with medication, but Kathleen grew self-conscious about the side-effect of significant weight gain and did not stick to her treatment regime. At the time of the death of Susan, the sisters had been fighting – over things such as the use of a hair straightener and internet access.

Justice Elizabeth Fullerton found her mental state compromised her perceptions and her capacity to control herself or distinguish right from wrong. Kathleen was sentenced to imprisonment for six years, including four years and three months as the non-parole period. This case is an example of a sentencing decision where the judge considered the principles listed in section 3A of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW), when mental illness is causally connected to the commission of an offence. In this instance, Fullerton referred to YS v R [2010] NSWSC 98 in which the judge outlines the principles to follow when sentencing a young person with a mental illness.

This episode ended with more tragedy for the parents of these two girls, as Kathleen died in her cell barely two months after this decision was handed down. The inquest into the death of Kathleen Worrall is included in the Report by the NSW State Coroner into deaths in custody/police operations for the year 2012. You can find it on the NSW Coroner's Court website - type worrall in the search box.

Finding this case

R v Worrall [20010] NSWSC 593, 4 June 2010, Fullerton J

Commentary and media reports

1. Newspaper articles on Proquest ANZ Newsstand, available remotely to registered clients of the State Library of NSW.  Type in Kathleen Worrall or Susan Worrall and set dates to after October 2008.

2.  The Australian Institute of Criminology has written a number of reports exploring mental health and crime - type mental health in the search box.

3. A chapter in The Australian book of family murders, by Wendy Lewis, Murdoch Books, 2011.  (Available in the State Library)

Legal information at the Library

This guide has been developed by staff of the Legal Information Access Centre (LIAC), State Library of NSW. The State Library holds an extensive collection of case law, legislation and looseleaf publications.

Name of victim

Susan Worrall

Criminal justice issues

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