‘Gay panic’ removed as defence in Queensland

Father Paul Kelly started a petition to get rid of the "gay panic" defence.

A bill to remove the controversial "gay panic" defence from Queensland law was passed on March 21. It had been used by people accused of murder to claim they were provoked due to an unwanted homosexual advance.

Those who pleaded under section 304 of the Criminal Code (killing on provocation) reduced their criminal responsibility to manslaughter and avoided life in jail.

Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath said the bill delivered on an important promise to the LGBTI community of Queensland.

D'Ath said using unwanted homosexual advances as a defence “is unacceptable and does not reflect modern societal views about criminal responsibility and about the expectation to exercise self-control".

"An unwanted sexual advance, even one that involves minor touching, cannot be enough, other than in circumstances of an exceptional character, to reduce criminal responsibility for killing a person with murderous intent," she said.

A petition calling for the reform, created by Catholic priest Father Paul Kelly, gained more than 290,000 signatures. Kelly created the online petition after Wayne Ruks was bashed and killed in his church grounds at Maryborough in 2008.

Ruks' mother Joyce Kujala said she had waited eight years for this day. “It can't bring Wayne back but it's some small justice and it could save a lot of lives in future," she said.

Queensland and South Australia were the only jurisdictions in Australia not to have repealed the gay panic defence. The changes will still allow a partial defence to be used in "exceptional circumstances", which would be up to a judge to assess on a case-by-case basis.

The LNP moved amendments that would explain what constituted circumstances of exceptional character and provide examples of unwanted sexual advances. But they were narrowly defeated, with member for Cook Billy Gordon and member for Cairns Rob Pyne siding with the government.

The bill also includes increased penalties for misconduct with a corpse and exclude the public from a court room while pre-recorded evidence from a child witness or special witness is played.

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