The Queensland State Government has finally followed several other states around Australia and abolished the so-called “gay panic” defence to murder as part of a raft of changes to the Criminal Code.
The partial defence to murder had previously allowed defendants to argue for a reduced charge of manslaughter by claiming that their actions were the result of an unwanted homosexual advance.
Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath says the defence wasn’t specifically set out in the Queensland Criminal Code but had grown to be a part of the common law based on findings in previous decisions of the Court. “Equality before the law is a fundamental principle of human rights and the amendment… will ensure that this provision operates equally for all members of our community” she said.
Tasmania, Victoria, Northern Territory and the ACT abolished the defence over a decade ago, followed by Western Australia in 2008 and New South Wales in 2014. The defence still remains available to accused persons in South Australia.
The push for legislative change in Queensland was spearheaded by Catholic Priest, Father Kelly. Father Kelly is a parish priest at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Maryborough where Wayne Ruks (45) was bashed to death in July 2008. One of Mr Ruks’ attackers was released from gaol after serving just four years of a nine-year manslaughter sentence.
His killers, Jason Pearce and Richard Meerdink, were gaoled in 2010 for manslaughter after claiming that Mr Ruks had made homosexual advances towards Pearce when they were seated on a bench in the church yard.
Mr Ruks had a blood alcohol reading of 0.338, was tackled then kicked and punched for several minutes while on the ground. He later died from internal bleeding.
“It’s been a personal journey and a very emotional journey. I think this is a great victory to have everybody stand equally under the law” Father Kelly said after the legislative amendment was passed.
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