Pressure is mounting over Queensland’s ‘gay panic’ defence

April 7, 2015 1:06 pm

Pressure is mounting for the abolition of an antiquated law
allowing Queenslanders who kill homosexuals to have a murder charge
reduced to manslaughter by arguing that their victim propositioned them. Defendants have argued that the sexual advance provoked them to such a
degree that they were not fully responsible for their actions.

The
“gay panic” defence has been successfully deployed in criminal cases in
recent years, including that of a 45-year-old man, Wayne Ruks, who was
beaten to death in the town of Maryborough in 2008 by two drinking
companions, Jason Pearce, 38, and Richard Meerdink, 41.
Ruks’
body was found the following morning in the churchyard of a Catholic
church, whose parish priest, Father Paul Kelly, has been campaigning
ever since to have the Homosexual Advance Defence removed from the
state’s common law.
On Sunday, Brisbane’s Anglican Archbishop,
Phillip Aspinall, backed those calls, saying: “I don’t think it’s
reasonable to murder someone who approaches you sexually.

Violence is never a constructive response.”
Speaking to AAP after his Easter Sunday mass, Aspinall added that Kelly was “on the right track, well and truly”.
The
partial defence – scrapped by other Australian states years ago – was
also successfully raised at the trial of Patrick Peterson, 36, and
Seamus Smith, 26, who fatally bashed a 62-year-old hitchhiker, Stephen
Ward, six months after Ruks was killed. In the Ruks case, his mother
insisted he was not gay.
Defendants have argued that the sexual
advance provoked them to such a degree that they were not fully
responsible for their actions.
Kelly has collected more than
224,000 signatures on a petition calling on the state Government to
revoke the defence. The new Labor Government has promised to abolish it,
but has not yet announced a timetable for reform.
As well as gay
rights organisations, local media have called for the defence to be
struck out. Even Bill Potts, a criminal lawyer who has successfully used
it in a murder trial, told the Courier Mail the defence was “archaic,
homophobic and often unreasonable”.
An editorial in the Fraser
Coast Chronicle said: “It’s hard to believe a defence like this could
still exist in these so-called enlightened times, particularly when men
of the cloth – not always known as the greatest friends of the gay and
lesbian community – can clearly see the bigotry, prejudice and
intolerance inherent in this defence.”
The paper added: “It
should be clear to everyone – particularly lawmakers. It’s time this
defence was consigned to the past once and for all.”

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