The slaughter of Gay men in Australia
|April 05th, 2016|
|tags:||Australia, Father Paul Kelly, Gay panic defence, homophobia|
Over four years ago Father Paul Kelly awoke to the news that a young man had been cruelly beaten to death in his churchyard.
The men accused of the crime were tried and found guilty of manslaughter as they had put forward a defence of Gay Panic saying that, the deceased had come on to them and they “snapped.” CCTV footage showed no evidence of this but did show in detail the inhuman and heartless nature of the killing. Since then Father Paul has relentlessly campaigned to get Queensland’s Gay panic law removed.
I recently spoke to Paul about Queensland’s Gay panic defence and the campaign; this is what he told me.
“When I first raised this issue more than four years ago I suspected there was a blind-spot to homophobia; but even though we are getting there slowly but surely with this campaign, the horribly slow and inexplicable resistance to it and the awful dragging the chain and disingenuous excuses along the way has proved my suspicion, that underneath the surface there is a lot of bigotry that can be quite lethal.
Gay panic defence has no place in a civilised society, we now know that if anyone alludes in a way that even avoids the proposed amendments to some spurious Homosexual advance that people are likely to say, “oh well in that case it’s understandable,” nothing about this is excusable.”
The Gay panic defence is under section 304 of Queensland’s criminal code, the provocation operates to reduce what would be murder to manslaughter and is often referred to as a partial defence. Where, it is proven that a defendant killed with the intent of murder, the successful application of the partial defence of provocation reduces the mandatory life sentence for murder.
Success of the Gay panic defence depends upon jury’s finding that a reasonable person would react to a gay proposition with extreme ferocity based on feelings of loathing, repulsion and disgust. Surprisingly, this law is not legislated anywhere but because it has been successfully used over decades, it has the force of the law behind it.
I asked Paul who has an honours degree in law why this is so.
“It is just a horrific archaic attitude that our society is only just starting to admit to, because attitude is often hidden; couched in careful and seemingly generic legal language that only serves to be unjust in its operation and not on the face of any legislation. It gives bigotry and homophobia a veneer of respectability.
This kind of law allows violent men who cannot, or will not, control their tempers a pathetic excuse. It allows people to act upon their bigotry and fear and lash out in the most violent way. For centuries, and sadly even to this day the provocation laws have been a cowardly refuge to hide behind for homophobic killers, bigots and violent domestic violence brutes, as well as abusers of alcohol and drugs.
Amendments are needed but they do not go far enough. Even an unsuccessful or partial attempt or merely a passing reference to some sort of a gay advance-whether true or not, will serve to poison the waters and infect the sensibilities of potential jurors, even possibly judges and the public. By tapping into deep-seated biases and bigotries that society has held historically; that a person who is believed to be gay or who is gay and who makes any sort of a pass at someone, has whatever results coming to them and that, it’s quite understandable that anyone who receives such a pass will become so completely unhinged that they would kill that person”.
In 2011 the provocation was itself amended resulting in the responsibility now resting with the defence to establish provocation rather than the prosecution to disprove.
These changes closed the loophole for murder arising in domestic violence situations, it done very little to stop the continued use of the homosexual advance defence. An expert committee was tasked with reviewing section 304 in regard to non-violent homosexual advance. The recommendation was to exclude an unwanted homosexual advance from the sphere of defence.
Paul and campaigners thought they had succeeded when on 25th January 2012 the Government announced its intention to end the defence.
Paul says, “We thought we had succeeded, promises made by the Labour government were not brought into being, an election was held the government changed to National Liberal Party. Then in a state election in 2015 the government changed to Labour, the recommendations were not acted upon.”
I contacted the Queensland attorney general’s office to ask why these recommendations are still not active; regardless of who is in power surely four years to act is unnecessary?
Spokesperson from the attorney general’s office.
“The Queensland Government has committed to amending section 304 of the criminal code (Killing on provocation) to exclude an unwanted non-violent sexual advance being able to establish a partial defence of provocation in the case of murder. It is anticipated that the proposed reforms may be introduced to parliament this year”.
„May be“, not „will be“?
Paul says, “It is appalling that this took so long and is still not fixed. If this law was affecting any other group of people in this kind of way, it would have changed virtually overnight and would not have need 234,000 signature’s to try and force the issue. It does not actually need more than one signature. It is so self-evidently wrong and it’s not about gay rights it’s about human rights. The church has always defended basic human rights; it has never said intolerance and violence should be accepted.”
November 2011 an expert committee reviewed 304 with regard to non-violent Homosexual advance defence.
17 Jan 2012 Hon John Jerrard recommended to exclude unwanted non-violent sexual advance from the defence.
Jan 25 2012 Government announced intention to amend section 304
March 2012 Government changed from Labour Party to Liberal National Party- proposed amendments not progressed
Feb 2015 Government changed from LNP to LP reaffirming its commitment to amending 304
March 2016 Reforms may be introduced this year.