South Australia’s Attorney-General Vickie Chapman says the state will finally remove the ‘gay panic’ defence from its criminal code this year.
Chapman said the South Australian government will draft a bill for public consultation before introducing the reform in parliament, The Canberra Times reported.
The defence, which legal advocates say is discriminatory towards gay and bisexual men, allows for murder charges to be downgraded to manslaughter if the killing was in response to an unwanted sexual advance.
The South Australian Law Reform Institute’s review recommended in 2017 that the government abolish the defence, with cabinet only now approving the drafting of the reforms.
The Institute delivered a final report, which can be read here, to Chapman in April 2018 shortly after she became Attorney-General.
Former Premier Jay Weatherill had committed to removing the defence pending the review’s outcome, but his government did not remove it before they lost the 2018 state election.
“The fact that an outdated legal position such as this still exists is disappointing, to say the least,” Chapman said.
She said that the government’s “considered approach” was due to a desire to prevent any reform from impacting on instances of provocation like domestic abuse victims killing an abuser in self-defence.
“Abolishing the defence of provocation, of which the so-called gay panic defence is a part, has far broader consequences than just removing this outdated and frankly offensive aspect,” Chapman said.
“This is why we have sought to take a considered approach that removes those outdated, discriminatory elements while retaining those elements that are in line with community expectations.”
Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre said last year the the ‘gay panic’ defence “leads to grave injustice in individual cases but also perpetuates the dangerous idea that homophobia justifies murder.”
“Our laws should be directed at preventing and reducing the harm caused by homophobia, rather than condoning or justifying prejudice.
“This discrimination has not just been used historically – it was considered relevant in a case before the South Australian courts less than a year ago.
“This outdated and unjust defence has no place in Australian law.”
Queensland removed the ‘gay panic’ defence in 2017, making South Australia the final state where it could still be legally applied.