The Queensland Government has announced plans to change the state’s Criminal Code to remove doubts about how and when a partial defence involving a sexual advance can be used, essentially ending the so-called “gay panic” defence.
There has been continued pressure on the Bligh Government to change the legal loophole after a substantial campaign by Catholic priest Father Paul Kelly, whose change.org petition had reached over 20,000 signatories in support of the defence’s elimination.
Attorney-General Paul Lucas said the Government had last week received a recommendation from a special committee established in November last year to consider the matter.
He said the Criminal Code currently contained a partial defence of provocation which could be used to reduce a conviction from murder to manslaughter where a defendant claimed they were provoked into committing the act.
He also acknowledged that members of the community had recently raised concerns that this could be used to establish a gay-panic defence, where a defendant could claim the victim made a homosexual advance towards them and provoked them into committing a criminal act.
“We made it crystal clear from day one that the Queensland Government does not believe that anyone should be able to use a claim of non-violent homosexual advance to reduce a conviction from murder to manslaughter,” Lucas said.
“That’s why we listened to the expert advice of the Queensland Law Reform Commission in 2008 and ensured strengthened legislation was passed so words alone could not amount to a partial defence.
“However, I received a number of representations from the gay community last year and consequently set up an expert committee comprised of key stakeholders to examine the laws.
Lucas said the committee had completed its review and based on the recommendations of legal expert and retired Court of Appeal Judge John Jerrard, they will be amending the law to ensure the intent of the partial defence provisions are clear.
“While the committee was not unanimous in its decision, the ultimate recommendation endorsed by the chair, recommended a change,” he said.
The provisions contained in section 304 are to be amended to ensure that an unwanted sexual advance would not be enough to establish provocation unless there were exceptional circumstances.
“It is not possible to remove sexual advances completely without affecting situations such as that of a battered woman who knows that her refusal of a sexual advance from her partner is a precursor to assault and she takes immediate action to stop this from happening,” he said.
“There is no place for these kinds of acts in a civilised society.
“These amendments make it crystal clear that someone making a pass at someone is not grounds for a partial defence and by no means an excuse for horribly violent acts.”
Lucas said the Bligh Government would introduce a bill to Parliament this year and called on Opposition Leader Campbell Newman to provide bi-partisan support.
“We know Campbell Newman was forced into a weak promise on the Civil Partnerships Act but the Shadow Attorney General, Jarrod Bleijie, made it clear last week that the LNP still wants to overturn the laws,” he said.