8,500 sign Catholic priest’s petition to end “gay panic” defence

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A Catholic priest in Queensland, Australia has seen huge support for a petition to ensure the complete removal of the “gay panic” defence in his state.

8,500 today had signed Father Paul Kelly’s request to strike out the partial defence, saying it “belongs in the dark ages” and should not be allowed to be attempted at a trial.

So-called “gay panic” has been invoked by defendants in murder cases trying to downgrade their charge to manslaughter on the basis that the victim had made a gay proposition to them and they lost control.

Introducing the petition, Father 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.”

His petition was brought about after a man was killed two years ago outside his church in Marlborough.

The two defendants tried to invoke the defence, but they were unsuccessful.

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.”

The possibility that the partial defence could be invoked prompted Father Kelly into action. He said recently: “Laws like the ‘gay panic’ defence are a crucial part of legitimising and reinforcing a culture of hate which means that 73% of gay and lesbian Queenslanders are subjected to verbal abuse or physical violence for their sexuality.

“Queensland is now one of the last states upholding the idea that a person can be panicked enough by homosexual people to justify grievously bashing them to the point that they die, no matter how mild the alleged action.

“In addition, the mere introduction of this evidence arguably pollutes jury deliberations. That’s why I am calling on the Queensland parliament and [opposition Liberal National Party leader] Campbell Newman to eliminate this law as a partial defence for murder.”

Father Kelly said the local Labor government was not prepared to go far enough, so he would call on the rest of the state parliament to make progress.

He added: “Given the failure of the Government to act, the petition is an opportunity for the Opposition Leader to take a positive step towards reducing discrimination and violence towards gay and lesbian people in Queensland.”

The issue will be raised in parliament by Ted Sorensen, LNP Member for the Queensland city of Hervey Bay if the petition can attract 10,000 signatures.

It is being hosted online at Change.org.