This is Fr Paul Kelly, Catholic Priest from Maryborough, Queensland. I write to ask for your support and also for you to distribute this issue as widely as possible. The law in Queensland unwittingly tolerates ingrained bigotry and intolerance in the area of the defence of provocation for murder. I am campaigning to close this common law loophole in this State. I have included below an explanation of the background to this and how it does fit with Catholic teachings.
i hope the following text might be helpful as a resource
An archaic defence that belongs in the dark ages
Father Paul Kelly
In July 2008 I was shocked when I received a call from the police telling me that my parish church of Saint Mary’s, in Maryborough, Queensland, was a crime scene.
A man was found dead by parishioners as they arrived for a morning communion liturgy. It was devastating and shocking. I and my parishioners followed the case closely. Very soon, two suspects were caught. Our church security cameras caught the events of the terrible bashing.
I was appalled when it was claimed that an alleged homosexual advance was a reason given for the man being bashed and left lying overnight in the church grounds. I was likewise appalled when I found that an alleged or perceived homosexual advance (of even the most minor gesture or touch) can be used as a partial defence in a murder case in Queensland (and also to an extent in NSW).
What reason could justify a bashing that leads to someone’s death?
In these two states, “non-violent homosexual advance” can be used as a defence to reduce a charge of murder to manslaughter. In every other state, this partial defence in cases of murder, known as “gay panic” or “homosexual advance,” is a loophole that has been mercifully closed. In NSW the the defence is also available. pAny violence that is not proportionate to the threat is excessive by definition. A gentle touching could rightly be gently pushed away but not a cause for violent and repeated bashing unto death. This is only common sense.
But in Queensland, the law hasn’t changed. And it deserves to banished from the books. I was shocked and disgusted when the mother of the victim who died at the church felt obliged by these allegations about her son, who after all was the victim in this case, to speak up in the media saying he wasn’t gay.
The fact that a mother felt she needed to explain that these allegations were false indicates the strength of even the suggestion of it in the minds of many people. I felt strongly that she shouldn’t even need to be defending this. Even if a person did some gesture or touch, I could not see why this could in any way mitigate against a violent bashing that leads to death.
I was utterly dismayed in October last year when gay panic was raised in a different murder trial, this time in the death of Stephen John Ward. The assailant allegedly bashed the victim 20 to 30 times and dumped him in bushland. Although the final decision in that case turned on other matters, the reason for the bashing being alleged gay panic was raised.
This glaring gap in the idea that all people are equal before the law needs to be closed. It would be quite unacceptable if a man bashed a woman to death and then argued that he bashed her because she allegedly “came on to him” and he reacted badly to it. It would be howled down as intolerable. In fact, it was howled down recently overseas: recently in New Zealand, the defence of provocation was totally removed by the government after a violent man tried to use provocation to explain the bashing death of his wife. So too should a claim that some kind of sexual advance by a member of the same sex could provoke extreme violence.
If a woman could use the excuse that she bashed a man to death because she reacted violently to his advances, there would be a lot of very scared men around. It is ludicrous.
I wrote twice to the Attorney-General’s department in Queensland. The response I received indicated that some changes were being looked at and implemented. But they did not want to entirely close the loophole because the laws about provocation that govern it might be able to be used by a battered spouse who defends themself violently after an initial touching which they (from previous experience) know to be the forerunner of greater violence. However, the cases I have followed are nothing like that. The battered spouse defence actually is covered in another part of the Code of Queensland law and has been dealt with in special sections of the law of other states, namely Victoria.
IT has been noted that battered spouses who kill are acting more in self-defence rather than provocation. This illustrates the hubris shown by the previous Queensland government.
This loophole is dangerous. It doesn’t need to be a gay advance, it could be simply an action mistaken to be gay advance. You don’t even need to be gay, you could be mistaken to be gay.
An accused could also be merely making up the story that he was the victim of a homosexual advance. who is to tell. it is crazy. It also puts the deceased person on trial and makes their actions the focus of the matter rather than the violence and extent of the actions of the offender.
Some have expressed surprise that a Roman Catholic Priest would be advocating this change to the law. However, this really reflects a poor understanding of the Catholic Church’s teaching. The Church teaches that: “…(Men and women with homosexual tendencies) must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” If this teaching doesn’t relate to standing up against hatred, violence or killing of homosexual people, I don’t know what it would mean!
This is an issue about ordinary human rights that apply to all people, irrespective of sexuality. No person of goodwill would advocate violence or killing of homosexuals, irrespective of one’s moral beliefs. Let’s change this law.
Father Kelly has re-started a petition addressed to Campbell Newman to change the Queensland law. see also this link: http://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/eliminate-the-gay-panic-defence-from-queensland-law-gaypanic
Special update note:
I have annotated some responses to the Qld attorney General's bizzare comments in a recent ABC radio interview: http://australianprovocation.blogspot.com.au/2012/07/attorney-general-jarrod-bleijie.html