QLD to Change ‘Gay Panic’ Defence
25 January 2012 at 3:04 pm
The Queensland Government is set to change the state’s Criminal Code to remove doubts about how and when a partial defence involving a sexual advance can be used, essentially ending the so-called “gay panic” defence.
But, the Queensland Priest leading the campaign to abolish the notorious “gay panic” defence says while the the proposed changes are a victory for commonsense, they do not go far enough.
Queensland Attorney General Paul Lucas said the Government had last week received a recommendation from a special committee established in November last year to consider the matter.
Lucas said the Criminal Code currently contained a partial defence of provocation which could be used to reduce a conviction from murder to manslaughter where a defendant claimed they were provoked into committing the Act.
He said members of the community had recently raised concerns that this could be used to establish a so-called “gay-panic defence”, where defendant claimed the victim made a homosexual advance towards them and provoked them into committing the act.
Earlier this month, Pro Bono Australia reported on how Father Paul Kelly had started the Change.org campaign to end the legal loophole.
It followed the brutal killing of a man in Father Kelly’s church grounds in Maryborough. The defendants used the “gay panic” defence – that if someone they think is gay “comes onto” them, the sheer panic they feel is partial justification for murder.
Father Kelly, whose campaign gained national attention and attracted more than 24,000 supporters, said he was pleased the Government had responded to the massive public backlash over the issue.
Father Kelly said while the proposed changes were a “victory for commonsense” and a great demonstration of people power, they did not go far enough to eliminate the prospect of the “homosexual advance” defence being put forward in court as a partial defence to murder.
Father Kelly is now calling on LNP Leader Campbell Newman to at least match the Government’s commitment and for both parties to take a strong stand on the issue in the new Parliament – no matter who wins power after the March 24 election.
Paul Lucas said: “We made it crystal clear from day one that the Queensland Government does not believe that anyone should be able to use a claim of non-violent homosexual advance to reduce a conviction from murder to manslaughter.”
“The committee has completed its review and based on the recommendations of legal expert and retired Court of Appeal Judge John Jerrard, we will be amending to law to ensure the intent of the partial defence provisions are clear.
“While the committee was not unanimous in its decision, the ultimate recommendation endorsed by the chair, recommended a change.”
Lucas said the provisions contained in section 304 would be amended to ensure that an unwanted sexual advance would not be enough to establish provocation unless there were exceptional circumstances.
Father Kelly called on on the State Government to release the expert committee’s report so that the tens of thousands of people who have signed this petition can examine the detail.
“I am concerned the Government is tinkering at the edges of this problem rather than completely eliminating the possibility of the ‘gay panic’ defence being raised,” he said.
Read our related story on this issue here.
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