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Qld govt urged to act on gay panic defence

AAP logoAAP 10/11/2016 Jamie McKinnell

The Queensland government is under renewed pressure to address a "glaring anomaly" in the state's criminal code by abolishing the so-called "gay panic" defence.

Under current laws, a defendant who successfully invokes the partial defence can have their criminal responsibility reduced from murder to manslaughter by claiming an unwanted homosexual advance provoked violence.

Father Peter Kelly, a lead campaigner, has criticised Labor's "ambivalence" after Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath said last month a bill would be introduced this year.

"You really have to look at what message it's sending out by not acting quickly," Fr Kelly told AAP. "Unfortunately, the damage has been done."

There are just three sitting days left in parliament this year.

Fr Kelly said the "glaring anomaly" required a less leisurely approach.

The Catholic priest began campaigning following the fatal bashing of Wayne Ruks in his Maryborough churchyard in 2008, when the killers raised the gay panic defence at trial even though Mr Ruks was straight.

Mr Ruks' mother, Joyce Kujala, feared the issue had sunk into the shadows.

"I really feel that the government doesn't think that this is important enough to scrub it," she said.

The change has already been made, through various means, in all other states apart from Queensland and South Australia, some as far back as 2003.

In 2012, the then-Labor government said it would legislate so that a sexual advance would not establish provocation "unless there were exceptional circumstances", similar to the NT and ACT reforms.

In those two jurisdictions, a non-violent advance is an insufficient basis for provocation but may be taken into account with other conduct.

Their approach was regarded as "a slightly unusual halfway house" by Professor Luke McNamara, of the UNSW Faculty of Law.

"I have some reservations about whether or not it does what it's aiming to do," he said. "There's a bit of an out."

Defences such as provocation are important given Queensland's mandatory life sentence for murder.

NSW in 2014 raised its bar with a partial defence of "extreme provocation", requiring the provoking act to be a serious indictable offence.

But Prof McNamara said the NSW parliament went further, perhaps for symbolic reasons, to categorically say a non-violent sexual advance does not constitute provocation alone.

He highlighted the need for broad consultation and believed the NSW model was reasonable.

"The bigger question for a parliament is whether they want to simultaneously address other pressure points in provocation law," he said.

Fr Kelly's Change.org petition calling for the "revolting" law to be dumped has attracted 287,000 signatures - the second-largest number for Australian petitions on the site - over five years.

Ms D'Ath was contacted for comment.

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