South Australia is the last Australian state to axe ‘gay panic’ defence


south australian attorney general vicki chapman
Photo: Facebook

A Greens MP has called on the South Australian government to finally abolish the so-called “gay panic” defence for murder.

Currently, the partial defence of provocation allows a heterosexual man accused of murder to attempt to reduce a charge if they claim they lost control and the violence was “provoked” by a non-violent homosexual advance.

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Greens MLC Tammy Franks recently moved a motion calling on the state government to fulfil their promise to scrap the defence.

“Before the last election, both major parties promised they’d act on this matter. We’re still waiting,” Franks said.

“Last April the Government again promised it would finally remove the gay panic defence by the end of 2019, and yet we’re still waiting.

“All sides of politics have previously committed to removing this awful and outdated defence. We keep being promised change [but] we are yet to see it.

“While the so-called ‘gay panic’ defence exists in our state it means we’re willing to blame the dead victim if his killer claims he was gay, and I think that’s unacceptable.”

Last April, Attorney-General Vicki Chapman (pictured) said the “gay panic” aspect of the defence was “frankly offensive” and it would be scrapped.

A spokesperson for Chapman told ABC News this week the legislation was still being worked on.

“Such changes … require rigorous scrutiny to ensure they are not used for unintended purposes,” the spokesperson said.

“The Attorney-General will be considering a draft bill in the coming weeks for broader consultation in the second half of this year.”

Law experts say broader reforms needed to scrap ‘gay panic’ defence

In 2018, South Australia’s Law Reform Institute (SARLI) recommended the government abolish the defence, but said the situation was complex.

In a report, SARLI recommended the government also amend sentencing laws and legal defences in matters of domestic and family violence.

“Care must be taken to avoid establishing a new well-intentioned model, which may have undesirable and unintended consequential impacts in practice,” the report stated.

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However, SARLI also found the “current [provocation] law favours men over women and is especially unfair to women who have been subjected to family violence.”

The report recommended the government introduce or revise defences of self-defence and duress for victims of domestic and family violence.

South Australia is the last state or territory in the country to address the so-called “gay panic” defence.

In 2017, the Queensland government passed legislation scrapping the state’s equivalent law.

It came after a Queensland priest’s petition attracted 290,000 signatures after the bashing death of a man by two others in his churchyard.

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