Catholic priest petitions to remove Australian “gay panic defence”

A Catholic priest in Queensland, Australia has started an online petition to ensure the complete removal of the “homosexual advance defence”, which has been used to attempt to have murder charges lessened to manslaughter if the victim had propositioned the killer.

Introducing the petition, Father Paul Kelly says: “It is simply intolerable that anyone can rely on a defence or an excuse that an alleged homosexual advance could somehow mitigate against violence that leads to death.”

Known internationally as the “gay panic” defence, it is invoked to attempt to show the killer acted in self-defence or under provocation.

In some cases it is alleged that the accused had latent gay feelings, and as a result reacted in an unexpectedly violent way to even a non-violent gay proposition.

While there is no straight equivalent, the non-violent gay panic defence is rarely employed successfully.

Known in England and Wales as the Portsmouth or Guardsman’s defence, the Crown Prosecution Service now advises: “The fact that the victim made a sexual advance on the defendant does not, of itself, automatically provide the defendant with a defence of self-defence for the actions that they then take.”

New Zealand repealed its provocation defence in 2009.

Father Kelly, of St Mary’s, Maryborough, told the Brisbane Times he started the Australian petition after a man was murdered on church property in 2008 and his killer attempted to invoke the defence.

He said: “I never heard of something so terrible, that there is some kind of defence that says if you make a homosexual advance then that can be used in court.”

Queensland’s Attorney General said earlier this year that provocation defence loopholes had been closed, telling the paper: “No longer can mere words alone, including gay or straight advances, be sufficient for the defence of provocation, except in the most extreme and exceptional circumstances.”

In a bid for complete clarification of the law, Father Kelly writes about the petition that attempting to introduce the defence to a jury is “highly prejudicial” and “encourages straight men to construct staged tales of a homosexual advance so they can get their murder charges reduced”.

The priest told the Brisbane Times: “The church has always defended basic human rights, it’s never said intolerance or violence should be tolerated.”