31 Mar Queensland Finally Scraps Gay-Panic Defence
A legislation has been passed by the Queensland Government removing ‘gay-panic’ defence from the Criminal Code, meaning that unwanted sexual advances from gay men are no longer a partial defence for murder.
The out-dated legal argument is now only recognised in South Australia.
“The passing of this legislation sends an important message that discrimination is not acceptable and that we value the LBGTI community,” said Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath.
“Queensland’s criminal code must not be seen to condone violence against the gay community, or indeed any community. Equality before the law is a fundamental principle of human rights and the amendment to section 304 will ensure that this provision operates equally for all members of our community,”
Murder charges have been downgraded to manslaughter due to the gay panic defence in the past, with the most well-known case in recent years being that of Wayne Ruk, whose body was found by a parishioner going to mass. He had died of internal bleeding.
When Jason Pearce and Richard Meerdink were accused of his murder both men claimed that Ruk had made sexual advances towards them.
Sentenced to nine years imprisonment for manslaughter in 2010, Pierce was released on parole two years later, Meerdink was sentenced to ten years and was up for parole in 2016.
When the conviction was reduced to manslaughter, Father Paul Kelly campaigned for the laws in QLD to be changed starting an online petition, with the changes to ‘gay-panic’ as a defence being something he welcomed at the end of a long campaign.
“After five years of relentlessly campaigning for the gay panic defence for murder to be scrapped from the legal books in Queensland, I can today breathe a sigh of relief and accomplishment,” Father Kelly said, “I’m absolutely thrilled that the 290,000 signatures on my change.org petition and support from Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath led to the axing of this homophobic, archaic and outdated law.”
During the trial Ruk’s mother, Joyce Kujala denied claims of his homosexuality.
“My son was not gay, and that was the hardest part. It shows the defence can be used against anyone,” Ms Kujala said. “Even the CCTV footage showed no sign of a homosexual advance. It was just used as an excuse.”
“Thank you for persistence in pushing today’s outcome,” she said after waiting eight years for the law to be changed. “It can’t bring Wayne back but it’s some small justice and it could save a lot of lives in future.”
South Australia is now the only state left to carry the ‘gay-panic’ defence, though last year statements were made that the South Australian Law Reform Institute would be undertaking a review of legislation.
The QLD government were right to scrap it, the ‘gay-panic’ defence is a dangerous law that not only discriminates against violence towards the LGBTI community, but gives individuals an out when they have committed terrible acts by simply saying they were provoked by sexual advancement and getting a downgrading in their conviction.
Violence of any kind is unacceptable.