Catholic Priest Challenges Murder Defence Law

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Catholic Priest Challenges Murder Defence Law

In July 2008 Fr Paul Kelly was shocked when he received a call from the police telling him that the parish church of Saint Mary’s, in Maryborough, Queensland, was a crime scene.

 A man was found dead by parishioners as they arrived for a morning communion liturgy. It was devastating and shocking and very soon, two suspects were caught - the church security cameras caught the events of the terrible bashing.

"I was appalled when it was claimed that an alleged homosexual advance was a reason given for the man being bashed and left lying overnight in the church grounds," said Fr Paul.

"I was likewise appalled when I found that an alleged or perceived homosexual advance (of even the most minor gesture or touch) can be used as a partial defence in a murder case in  Queensland (and also to an extent in NSW)."

"What reason could justify a bashing that leads to someone’s death?"

In these two states, “non-violent homosexual advance” can be used as a defence to reduce a charge of murder to manslaughter.

According to Fr Paul, in every other state, this partial defence in cases of murder, known as “gay panic” or “homosexual advance,” is a loophole that has been mercifully closed.

In NSW the legislators have added the requirement of proportionality so that a person could only use a force proportionate to the threat, so a gentle touching could rightly be gently pushed away but not a cause for violent and repeated bashing unto death.

"But in Queensland, the law hasn’t changed and it deserves to banished from the books."

"Even if a person did some gesture or touch, I could not see why this could in any way mitigate against a violent bashing that leads to death."

 Fr Paul was utterly dismayed in October last year when gay panic was raised in a different Queensland murder trial.

The assailant allegedly bashed the victim 20 to 30 times and dumped him in bush-land.  Although the final decision in that case turned on other matters, the reason for the bashing being alleged gay panic was raised.

"This glaring gap in the idea that all people are equal before the law needs to be closed."

 Fr Paul wrote twice to the Attorney-General’s department in Queensland. The response he received indicated that some changes were being looked at and implemented.

"But they did not want to entirely close the loophole because the laws about provocation that govern it might be able to be used by a battered spouse who defends themself violently after an initial touching which they (from previous experience) know to be the forerunner of greater violence."

"However, the cases I have followed are nothing like that. The battered spouse defence actually is covered in another part of the Code of Queensland law and has been dealt with in special sections of the law of other states, namely Victoria. IT has been noted that battered
spouses who kill are acting more in self-defence rather than  provocation."

Fr Paul says the loophole is dangerous.

"It doesn’t need to be a gay advance, it could be simply an action mistaken to be gay advance. You don’t even need to be gay, you could be mistaken to be gay. An accused could also be merely making up the story that he was the victim of a homosexual
 advance. who is to tell. it is crazy."

 "It also puts the deceased person on trial and makes their actions the
 focus of the matter rather than the violence and extent of the actions
 of the offender."

"This is an issue about ordinary human rights that apply to all people, irrespective of sexuality.

"No person of goodwill would advocate violence or killing of homosexuals, irrespective of one’s moral beliefs. Let’s change this law."

Father Kelly has started a petition addressed to Campbell Newman to  change the Queensland law and invites all Catholics across Australia to sign the petition, which so far has drawn over 17000 signatures and the movement for change to these laws has drawn 178,000 followers.