Tom Jones in his hit song "Delilah" which hit the
charts in 1968, was singing to a different generation over 40 years
ago. It is unknown to the writer as to whether there was then any
social commentary or criticism of the song's content. However,
when you look to the lyrics in the 21st century, we
certainly are looking back in time to a different appreciation of a
wide range of issues that related to women's position in
society, including their relationship with men and respect for
This song tells a story of a man (we'll call him Sam) who
was quite possessive "She was my woman" and he
was satisfied that she was being unfaithful to him "At
break of day when the man drove away I was waiting". He
sought to confront her and according to Sam, "She stood
Was that laughter provocation and was his conduct thereafter in
any way defensible?
This is a contemporary issue in modern Australia and in New
South Wales the Crimes Amendment (Provocation) Act 2014 (the Act)
operated to significantly curtail the legal defence based upon
provocation in a murder trial. For present purposes, we will assume
Sam was charged with murder and whilst he may have had a defence
based upon provocation under the law prior to the 2014 Amendments,
such a defence has now been substantially narrowed. Even if extreme
provocation was established, the accused would still be guilty of
Sam, you would suspect had some degree of pre-meditation as Tom
sings "I felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no
Delilah is dead and a defence for Sam based upon extreme
provocation would now mean he has to establish Delilah's
conduct was itself a serious indictable offence, such conduct
causes Sam to lose self control and Delilah's conduct would not
only had caused Sam to lose self control but also any ordinary
person to lose self control to the extent of intending to kill or
inflict grievous bodily harm on Delilah.
How could unfaithfulness and laughter constitute a serious
indictable offence and how could any ordinary person in the face of
that limited form of conduct, lose self control to the extent of
intending to kill or inflict grievous bodily harm on the
Was there any remorse by this character?
Is there not in the song an attempt to blame Delilah for her own
death? The lyrics themselves appear to put the blame on Delilah or
to seek an explanation from her e.g. "Why, why why
Is it a case that the name Delilah merely fitted in with the
lyrics or was it an adoption in part of the biblical story of
Sampson and Delilah (why couldn't it have been a song about
why, why, why Maria?). There you will recall that Delilah proved
unfaithful to Sampson by giving up his secret to the Philistines.
She did not remain loyal. In the song Sam knows the Police are
coming for him but can we be satisfied he is genuinely contrite and
remorseful when the lyrics provide "So before they coming
to break down the door, forgive me Delilah I just couldn't take
any more". (Why did they have to break down the door,
clearly he was not surrendering).
What was Sam actually thinking, his woman has been unfaithful to
him, she has not threatened him with violence, she has not attacked
him with a knife, on any view this character is no more than a
Your union is fully supportive of the protection of women from
any form of abuse by men. The White Ribbon Movement has proved to
be a clarion call to emphasise the need for women to be respected
and not to live in fear and be subject to physical and emotional
abuse. If Delilah's actions were provocative, they certainly
couldn't satisfy the new statutory test.
Through the White Ribbon program, your Union and its support for
that program is working to give women a voice.
Delilah was a victim and Sam took away Delilah's voice and
your Union is working to give it back.
We may well consider sentencing principles for Sam in our next
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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