Over thirty years of legal practice has taught me to be careful of politicians who rush ill-considered laws through Parliament. Some years ago Professor Alan Berman and I pressed Labor Attorneys-General Cameron Dick and Paul Lucas to abolish the gay panic defence. Father Paul Kelly (pictured), in whose Maryborough churchyard Wayne Rucks was bashed and left to die, has rightly been a keen advocate of abolishing gay panic defence. Rucks’ killers relied on gay panic defence. Paul Lucas gathered a group of experts and made changes but ultimately did not abolish the defence. Now it appears that Attorney-General Yvette D’ath will seek to legislate to abolish gay panic defence.
This can’t come soon enough. This was highlighted with the recent South Australian case of Lindsay. Andrew Negre had straddled Michael Lindsay one night, moving his hips backwards and forwards in a sexually suggestive manner. Later it was suggested that Negre had offered to pay Lindsay for sex. Lindsay punched, kicked and stabbed Negre repeatedly. Negre died within two to three minutes. The High Court left open that Lindsay should have been able to rely on provocation (and therefore be convicted of manslaughter, not murder).
Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg has recently announced that the Opposition will offer bipartisan support for abolishing gay panic defence. This is a welcome reverse of the Newman government’s approach, when then Attorney Jarrod Bleijie refused to consider any change, and in a hung parliament this support is very important.
If and when laws are introduced to abolish gay panic defence it should be after clear community consultation and review by Parliament’s committee system. The laws need to be carefully considered and even more carefully drafted. While decisive action is called for, the devil is in the detail. We should be careful of unintended consequences – when quickly drafted laws create problems in other cases.