DEFENDANTS in NSW murder cases can no longer use the “gay panic” defence and have their charge downgraded, following legislation passed in the upper house of State Parliament this afternoon.

The amendment to the Crimes Act follows years of campaigning and a recommendation by the Legislative Council Select Committee last year that provisions allowing for the use of the gay panic defence be removed.

The bill was introduced by Christian Democrats upper house MP Fred Nile, who also led the committee last year.

So-called provocation laws had allowed charges against an accused to be lessened from murder to manslaughter by claiming an unwelcome, non-violent sexual advance from a person of the same sex.

Historically, the use of the defence had been invoked in cases involving two men.

NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby convenor Justin Koonin has welcomed the amendments this afternoon. The bill still needs to pass the lower house but the Star Observer understands that it is guaranteed to pass.

“We are delighted that this bill has passed the Legislative Council [upper house], as it brings us one step closer to the demise of a legal defence that has no place in contemporary society,” Koonin stated.

“It is important to acknowledge the multi-partisan support for this reform. We would like to thank our long-term allies, including Trevor Khan MLC, Helen Westwood MLC and David Shoebridge MLC, who all sat on the inquiry committee and worked tirelessly on this issue. We note that support for this reform has also come from unusual quarters, including from the inquiry chair Rev Fred Nile.

“We urge the Legislative Assembly [lower house] to pass this Bill as a matter of urgency, so that we can finally lay the Homosexual Advance Defence to rest in New South Wales.”

Speaking last October, when a draft of the Crimes Amendment (Provocation) Bill 2013 was released, Premier Barry O’Farrell said defendants would have to prove “extreme provocation” in order to be entitled to use the partial defence.

While this would allow victims of long-term physical abuse – such as a wife at the hands of an abusive husband – the ability to argue they were provoked into acting violently it would clamp down on inappropriate uses of the defence.

“Under the bill, if a person kills their partner, the fact that their partner has been unfaithful, or wishes to leave the relationship, cannot amount to ‘extreme provocation’,” O’Farrell said.

“The same will be the case if a person kills someone who makes a non-violent sexual advance towards them.”

The inquiry into the state’s provocation laws commenced after 24-year-old Sydney man Chamjot Singh was found guilty in 2012 of manslaughter rather than murder over his Indian-born wife’s death in 2009. Singh had successfully argued during his trial that cultural factors and his belief that his wife was cheating on him had forced him into a “triangle of desperation”.

 

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