South Australian Government set to repeal ‘gay panic defence’

South Australian Government set to repeal ‘gay panic defence’

A legal defence that discriminates against gay and bisexual men may soon be repealed after South Australian Attorney-General Vickie Chapman expressed support for the removal of the so-called ‘gay panic defence’.

The comments were in response to a report by the South Australian Law Reform Institute released today.

Lee Carnie, lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said it was welcome that South Australia, the last jurisdiction in Australia with the defence, was one step closer to removing this discrimination from the law.

"This is a law that is clearly rooted in discrimination, completely out of step with community standards and has absolutely no justification today. It is well past time that this defence be removed from our laws once and for all," said Lee Carnie.

The partial defence of provocation is used in situations where a heterosexual man claims that he was ‘provoked’ to kill another man following a nonviolent homosexual advance.

"The so called ‘gay panic defence’ leads to grave injustice in individual cases but also perpetuates the dangerous idea that homophobia justifies murder. Our laws should be directed at preventing and reducing the harm caused by homophobia, rather than condoning or justifying prejudice.

"This discrimination has not just been used historically – it was considered relevant in a case before the South Australian courts less than a year ago. This outdated and unjust defence has no place in Australian law," added Lee Carnie.

The South Australian Law Reform Institute was tasked with investigating whether repealing the broader defence of provocation – of which the gay panic defence is one part – may have an adverse effect in unrelated cases.

The report also recommends that the defence of provocation be abolished, that greater flexibility in sentencing be introduced, and that statutory defences of duress and necessity be introduced to provide greater recognition of the situation of victims of family violence.

A copy of the SALRI report can be found here.

For interviews or further information please call:

Alycia Gawthorne, Communications Officer, Human Rights Law Centre, 0425 016 380

(Photo source: Flickr @CSI:cafe)