Murders and aggravated murders in the Family: Some practical research conclusions in Croatia

Murders and aggravated murders in the Family: Some practical research conclusions in Croatia

Written by: Assist. Prof. Mirjana Kondor-Langer

Today’s legislation is significantly different because it considers family as very important. The equality of men and women, both in the society and in the family, is advocated. One of the most important documents of the Council of Europe is the 2011 Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. This Convention represents a comprehensive framework of measures for preventing violence against women in general, as well as violence against women in family, by protecting the victims and prosecuting the offenders. De lege lata, the criminal legislation of the Republic of Croatia provides enhanced legal protection in case of a murder of a close person who has already been abused by the offender (see Criminal Code, Offical Gazette No. 125/11, 144/12, 56/16, 61/15, 101/17, 118/18, 126/19, Art. 111. pt. 3.).

In order to gain a better insight into certain features of murders and aggravated murders in the family, a scientific research of murders and aggravated murders in the family was conducted. Secondary data sources were used for the research sample. Namely, collected police files of murder and aggravated murder of family members, committed on the territory of the Republic of Croatia from 1st of January 2005 until 31st of December 2010. A total of 113 murders and aggravated murders were analysed. The analysed cases included final first-instance judgements as well as appeal judgements in case an appeal was filed. The files were obtained from State attorney’s office with keeping in mind the subject-matter and territorial jurisdiction. The research sample included 113 offenders and 128 victims because some of the offenders had committed a criminal offence to the detriment of several victims.

Therefore, conclusions can be drawn regarding the significance of the obtained results in practice. Firstly, it certainly must be pointed out that murders of family members are situational felonies and thus hardly preventable. However, the thing that needs to be done and that requires more intense efforts, relates to the prevention of certain factors that can lead to such severe consequences of family violence. The cause of family violence with fatal consequences is a multicausal, utterly negative occurrence in society. Therefore, the prevention of fatal consequences of family violence requires a multidisciplinary approach.

By reflecting on the practical value of the obtained results, particularly in cases in which the offenders committed suicide after committing murder of a family member, a specific problem arises. The police officers need to put in greater efforts in collecting facts related to the circumstances in which the murder happened during criminal investigations of murders of family members, both those related to the offender and those related to the family member (the victim). 

Furthermore, after the occurrence of family violence, risk assessments of future violence should be made for each particular victim. The assessments need to take into consideration the offender’s personality and his/her affinities, while special programmes involving the entire family should be drafted in order to impact and change his/her behaviour with the aim of removing the causes that enable or encourage the offender’s perpetration of family violence.

The fact that misdemeanour charges had been raised against 1/4 of the offenders due to family violence prior to the criminal offence shows that misdemeanour courts can play a significant role if they adequately react in such cases.  

It is important to stress that the performed research has shown that in the cases of family members murdered with a firearm, the offenders were not in legal possession of such firearms. This means that the problem of illegal availability, supply and keeping of firearms has been identified. Therefore, for the purpose of suppressing the availability as well as the possession of illegal firearms, national campaigns should be implemented further in order to sensitise the public about the latent danger of firearms for the citizens’ safety. The police force plays a major role in this. Also, because the research results indicate that most of the offenders who suffered from a mental illness were also treated, more attention to such persons is needed in order to improve the control and supervision of their treatment.

As family violence also has a high occurrence of the “dark number", public awareness needs to be raised further and the victims should be made aware of family violence being a very negative social phenomenon with possible fatal outcomes, and that this is not a problem of the individual person and his/her family but of the society as a whole. In addition, the persons who are to work with such victims, offenders and families should be trained and specialized for the task in order to achieve the best possible results. Finally, the efficiency of such programmes, as well as the efficiency of the persons implementing them should be evaluated (for more detailed results see Kondor-Langer, 2015).


Convention CETS No. 210 Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, available here.  

Criminal Code, Offical Gazette No. 125/11, 144/12, 56/16, 61/15, 101/17, 118/18, 126/19.

Kondor-Langer, M., Kriminološki i kaznenopravni aspekti ubojstva i teškoga ubojstva u obitelji, doktorski rad, Zagreb, 2015