Priest meets with Qld Attorney-General on ‘gay panic’
The Catholic priest helping lead the campaign to end Queensland’s ‘gay panic’ laws met with Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie yesterday to call on him to the close the loophole afforded to violent criminal offenders.
Father Paul Kelly (pictured) from St Marys Catholic Church, Maryborough said though Bleijie left the door open to a potential change in the law he was concerned by repeated misleading assertions coming from the Queensland Government in recent days denying the existence of the ‘gay panic’ defence.
“He acknowledged there was a lot of community support for a change in the law and he invited me to continue to press my case.
“While the Attorney-General expressed serious reservations about many aspects of my call to reform this law, he made it clear to me that he had not made a final decision on the issue,” Father Kelly said.
“I got the impression he was leaving the door open for reform of this law, but that he was still, unfortunately, a long way from being convinced.”
Father Kelly’s meeting with Bleijie came as the mother of Maryborough bashing victim Wayne Ruks as well as the former partner of a man who was involved in the deadly assault came together recently to support Kelly’s campaign to reform provocation laws so that a ‘non-violent homosexual advance’ cannot be used as partial defence in murder or assault cases.
The bashing occurred on the grounds of Kelly’s church in 2008.
Murder charges were laid against two men, Jason Andrew Pearce and Richard John Meerdink, however both men had their charges reduced to manslaughter after they told the jury Ruks had made a pass at one of the pair.
Ruks’s mother, Joyce Kujala, and Meerdink’s former partner, Karen Horgan, said they were moved to speak out after Pearce was released from prison earlier this month having served only four years.
Kujala and Horgan are among almost 200,000 people from around Australia and the world to have put their signatures to Father Kelly’s petition on Change.org against the use of the provocation law.
Father Kelly said though he believed the “overwhelming” weight of support would eventually see a change in the law, he was left dismayed Premier Campbell Newman was still denying the use of the ‘gay panic’ defence in criminal cases.
“The gay panic defence doesn’t exist. There is no law that says it is okay to beat someone up or murder them because of their sexuality. It simply doesn’t exist!” a spokesperson for Newman wrote on his official Facebook page on Monday, July 30.
“The man [Pearce] you refer to received a sentence of 9 years imprisonment, but the parole board decided to grant him parole on July 9 this year. The key factor in determining this man’s sentence was that he was found guilty of manslaughter, not murder, because the prosecution could not prove he intended to murder the victim.”
Father Kelly said such claims were ludicrous.
“The defence isn’t just theoretical - it has been brought up as the reason in two separate court cases in Queensland in the past few years,” Father Kelly said.
“For Mr Newman and his Attorney-General to deny that it exists is astounding.”
For updates or more information on Father Kelly’s petition, visit http://www.change.org/gaypanic