South Australia has become the last state to abolish the so-called “gay panic” provocation defence, with legislation passing State Parliament today.
- The gay panic defence allows a charge of murder to be downgraded to manslaughter in certain circumstances
- South Australian Parliament has abolished it
- Queensland was the second to last state to get rid of it
The defence could previously be used by a criminal court to downgrade a charge of murder to one of manslaughter in certain circumstances, including where a defendant could prove they were provoked to violence by a homosexual advance.
South Australia’s Law Reform Institute scrutinised the gay panic defence in two reports, before recommending in 2018 that it be abolished by the State Government.
Researchers found the law had only been invoked four times in the past decade — including in the case of Andrew Negre, who was fatally stabbed in 2011.
It found any changes would need to be made alongside reform to defences in family and domestic violence matters, to ensure appropriate consideration could still be given to victims who eventually retaliated against perpetrators.
South Australian Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said she believed the laws — passed with support from the Opposition and crossbenchers — struck the “right balance” between removing “discriminatory” provisions and protecting victims.
“The defence has been criticised for being complex, gender-biased and for encouraging victim-blaming,” Ms Chapman told State Parliament.
“It is at odds with community expectations that regardless of the degree of provocation, ordinary people should not resort to lethal violence.
“Sometimes referred to as the ‘gay panic’ defence, it has been controversial in its use by accused persons who have perpetrated violence against members of the gay community.
“Notwithstanding the offence was rarely successful in this context, its operation … is offensive and unacceptable.”
Ms Chapman said the “complex piece of legislation” marked a significant step forward in eliminating outdated provisions from South Australia’s laws and the changes would “strengthen” the rights of the LGBTQI community.
Queensland scrapped its gay panic law in 2017.