web-courtAfter years of campaigning by activists, the NSW Government has given its strongest indication yet that it will finally remove the use of the ‘gay panic’ defence in murder trials.

Premier Barry O’Farrell released an exposure draft of the Crimes Amendment (Provocation) Bill 2013 last Thursday after an inquiry by the Legislative Council Select Committee 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. Historically, the use of the defence has only ever been invoked in cases involving two men.

O’Farrell said the government remained committed to allowing 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 but wished to clamp down on inappropriate uses of the defence.

“Under these proposed changes, defendants will need to show ‘extreme provocation’ in order to be entitled to use the partial defence. The Bill requires that to constitute ‘extreme provocation’, the conduct of the deceased must have been a serious indictable offence,” he said.

“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’.

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

NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby policy and project officer Jed Horner, which has long been fighting for the changes, told the Star Observer that the Lobby welcomed the draft bill and will soon be sending a public submission in its support.

“We commend the O’Farrell Government for introducing these amendments in response to the report of the Legislative Council Select Committee on the Partial Defence of Provocation and we thank the members of that Committee for their tireless work,” he said.

“We look forward to the passage of legislation that consigns to the dust-bin of history a legal defence that has legitimated acts of violence against gay and bisexual men in the State of New South Wales.”

The inquiry into the state’s provocation laws commenced after 24-year-old Sydney man Chamjot 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”.

INFO: Submissions on the Exposure Draft Bill will be accepted until November 14. For more information, visit here.

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