Catholic priest wins ‘gay panic defence’ fight
The Queensland government has announced it will make the changes necessary to ensure ‘gay panic’ cannot be raised as a partial defence to murder.
Recommendations to amend the Criminal Code have been made after a petition by a Catholic priest garnered more than 25,000 signatures and international support.
So-called “gay panic” has been invoked by defendants in murder cases trying to downgrade their charge to manslaughter on the basis that the victim had made a gay proposition to them and they lost control of their actions.
Introducing the petition after a man was killed in the grounds of his church, Father Kelly says: “It is simply intolerable that anyone can rely on a defence or an excuse that an alleged homosexual advance could somehow mitigate against violence that leads to death.”
Now Queensland officials have said they will ensure the rules are tightened.
Attorney General of Queensland 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.
“That’s why we listened to the expert advice of the Queensland Law Reform Commission in 2008 and ensured strengthened legislation was passed so words alone could not amount to a partial defence.
“However, I received a number of representations from the gay community last year and consequently set up an expert committee comprised of key stakeholders to examine the laws.”
That committee has recommended clarification of the laws around sexual advances.
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Section 304 of the Queensland Criminal Code which deals with diminished responsibility will need to be amended with care, officials said, because violent sexual advances could justifiably trigger a partial defence.
Paul continued: “It is not possible to remove sexual advances completely without affecting situations such as that of a battered woman who knows that her refusal of a sexual advance from her partner is a precursor to assault and she takes immediate action to stop this from happening.
“There is no place for these kinds of acts in a civilised society.
“These amendments make it crystal clear that someone making a pass at someone is not grounds for a partial defence and by no means an excuse for horribly violent acts.”
Father Paul Kelly said today: “I am heartened but cautious in relation to the latest announcement from the Queensland government committing itself to the effective eradication of the “homosexual advance” partial defence. It still appears to be tinkering around the edges. I await the details of the report and the recommendations.
“Issues re raising of evidence in the trial still seem unclear. The vagueness and means of adjudicating “exceptional circumstances” may still allow circumstances of an alleged advance to pollute jury considerations and tap into prejudices. Concern remains.”