A parliamentary committee considering the Queensland government’s bill that would abolish the so-called “gay panic” defence has recommended the bill be passed.
The controversial partial legal defence has been used those accused of murder to attempt to reduce a charge down to manslaughter if they claim the violence was triggered by an unwanted homosexual advance.
In November, an amendment bill introduced to state parliament by Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath would stop a person accused of murder from using an “unwanted sexual advance” – either homosexual or heterosexual – as a defence of provocation except in “circumstances of exceptional character”.
Now the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee that was examining the government’s Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2016 – of which the “gay panic” reforms are part – has recommended the bill be passed in a report released on Tuesday.
LGBTI Legal Service law reform director Thomas Clark welcomed the committee’s decision and said he hoped the bill is passed as soon as possible.
“We fully support the recommendation and call on the Queensland Parliament to pass the bill to ensure that this discriminatory and prejudicial defence is never raised in Queensland again,” he said.
“It’s an overdue and welcome reform for the LGBTI community and sends a clear message of equality.”
The committee acknowledged concerns raised by the Queensland Law Society (QLS) about the wording of the bill, including that the “circumstances of an exceptional character” were not defined.
The Attorney-General’s department told the committee that adding such a definition “may have the unintended consequence of fixing the concept or limiting its scope, which may ultimately lead to unjust outcomes.”
In the report, the committee wrote that it would “be beneficial for the Attorney-General to further consult with the QLS and the Bar Association in relation to the terminology of ‘circumstances of exceptional character’ with a view to perhaps providing examples in the Bill.”
The clause in the bill relating to the “gay panic” defence “should be reviewed in five years to establish whether they have operated as intended,” the committee added.
Years of campaigning to scrap ‘gay panic’ defence
Queensland and South Australia are the only Australian jurisdictions where a so-called “gay panic” defence remains, and the introduction of the Queensland amendment bill last year followed years of community campaigning.
Brisbane priest Father Paul Kelly got involved in what would become a years-long fight to get the defence abolished after the death of Wayne Ruks (pictured, inset) on the grounds of his Maryborough church in 2008.
Father Kelly started a Change.org petition that attracted more than 290,000 signatures that were delivered to Ms D’Ath in November.
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