Following years of campaigning, the NSW Government gave its strongest indication late last year that it would remove the use of the Homosexual Advance Defence in murder trials.
Premier Barry O’Farrell had released an exposure draft of the Crimes Amendment (Provocation) Bill 2013 last October after an inquiry by the Legislative Council Select Committee, chaired by Christian Democratic Party leader Fred Nile, recommended in April that provisions allowing for the use of the ‘gay panic’ defence be removed.
The laws currently allow an accused to downgrade a charge of murder to manslaughter if they can prove they were provoked into a deadly attack because of a non-violent sexual advance.
NSW Gay and Lesbian Lobby convenor Justin Koonin said the matter should be dealt with as a priority over the next few weeks after public submissions into the exposure draft concluded last November.
“With multi-partisan support, and a draft government bill, we believe that there should be no barriers to the timely passage of the repeal of the Homosexual Advance Defence by the current parliament,” he said.
“It is beyond time for our parliamentarians to accept this responsibility by abolishing the defence, bringing LGBTI people in NSW one step closer to equality, and most importantly ensuring that it can never again downgrade what would otherwise be a murder conviction to manslaughter.”
Historically, the use of the defence has only ever been invoked in cases involving two men, with a 1997 High Court case (Green v The Queen) confirming that responsibility to reform the laws fell upon parliamentarians.
In October, O’Farrell said under the proposed changes defendants will need to show ‘extreme provocation’ in order to be entitled to use the partial 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,” he said.
“The same will be the case if a person kills someone who makes a non-violent sexual advance towards them.”
Sydney state independent MP Alex Greenwich told the Star Observer the bill’s passage was likely to be successful if introduced.
“All sides of politics have worked hard to get this legislation right,” he said.
“Now that we have a strong bill and the political will behind it we should seek to legislate sooner than later.”
A spokesperson for O’Farrell told the Star Observer this week the government was not yet ready to give a timetable for when the bill will be introduced.
“The NSW Government is still finalising feedback from the consultation,” he said.
The inquiry into the state’s provocation laws commenced after 24-year-old Sydney man Chamanjot Singh was found guilty last year 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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