The Queensland Attorney General plans to amend the law allowing accused murderers to use unwanted sexual advance as partial defence.
The Palaszczuk Government is approaching the removal of the ‘gay panic’ defence from Queensland’s Criminal Code.
Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath told State Parliament on Wednesday that she intended to fulfil the commitment made by the Palaszczuk Government during the 2015 State election to erase the defence.
“As the House is aware, the Queensland Government committed during the 2015 State general election to amending that section to exclude an unwanted sexual advance from being able to establish a partial defence of provocation in the case of murder,” she said.
“I am pleased to advise the House that this work is well under way. Today I commenced targeted consultation with key legal stakeholders by circulating a draft amendment to section 304 of the Criminal Code for comment on whether the amendments achieve the policy intention.”
The Homosexual Advance Defence, commonly known as the 'gay panic defence,' only exists in Queensland and South Australia, and has been on Australian law books since the 1990s.
Under current Queensland legislation, accused murderers can claim that they acted in a state of violent temporary insanity because of a purported psychiatric condition known as 'homosexual panic.' That condition, which was classified as a dissociative disorder, is no longer recognised by the American Psychiatric Association.
The gay panic defence has been used twice in Queensland in recent years, including in the case of Richard John Meerdink and Jason Andrew Pearce, who were jailed for the death of Wayne Robert Ruks in 2008.
Ruks was bashed in the grounds of Maryborough’s St Mary’s Catholic Church, but while the court did not accept the defence that he had followed Meerdink and Pearce and tried to grab Pearce’s crotch, the men were charged with manslaughter rather than first-degree murder.
Following the verdict, St Mary’s parish priest Paul Kelly started an online petition on Change.org which has attracted 243,000 supporters.
“I’ve made it my mission to see this revolting law abolished – it belongs in the dark ages,” said Kelly. “I have no words to describe how offensive, harmful and dangerous it is that two of our governments uphold that a person can be panicked enough by gay people to justify murder.”
D’Ath said the amendments to the Queensland Criminal Code were expected to be introduced into parliament later this year.
“Queensland’s criminal code must not be seen to condone violence against the gay community, or indeed any community,” she said.