South Australia today became the final Australian state to abolish the gay panic murder defence. The South Australian government passed legislation to abolish the defence with support from the opposition and crossbench.
Previously the defence could see a murder charge downgraded to one of manslaughter. A defendant only needed to prove that a homosexual advance provoked them to commit the murder.
South Australian Attorney-General Vickie Chapman told parliament she believed the legislation struck the right balance.
“The defence has been criticised for being complex, gender-biased and for encouraging victim-blaming.
“It is at odds with community expectations that regardless of the degree of provocation, ordinary people should not resort to lethal violence.
“Sometimes referred to as the ‘gay panic’ defence, it has been controversial in its use by accused persons who have perpetrated violence against members of the gay community.”
The Attorney-General also said the ‘offensive and unacceptable’ defence rarely proved successful.
South Australia’s Law Reform Institute previously scrutinised the gay panic defence and made two reports to the South Australian Government on the issue. They found four instances of defendants invoking the gay panic murder defence during the last ten years. In 2018, the institute recommended the government abolish the defence.
Queensland became the second-last state to abolish the defence in 2017.
First known Gay Panic Defence
The first known use of the defence occurred in Queensland relating to a murder known at the time as The Cooyar Tragedy. A man named Harry Dale claimed he shot his mate after a homosexual advance.
“I reckon a man like that deserves shooting.”
Wily Judge Lukin saw right through the defence, however. He pointed out that prior to the murder the men were constant companions for a period of seventeen months.
“His victim may or may not have been addicted to certain practices,” said the Judge, but if so, those practices “can not have been unknown to Harry Dale.”
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