Australian Priest Meets With Attorney General to End “Gay Panic” Defense

August 17, 2012

An Australian priest who is leading a campaign to eliminate the “gay panic” defense from his province’s law has met with the provincial attorney general to discussion his request.

Fr. Paul Kelly

Fr. Paul Kelly of Maryborough met with Jarrod Bleijie, Queensland attorney general, to talk about ending the troublesome defense plea which allows defendants to seek clemency by claiming that  unwanted homosexual advances were a provocation for violent crime.

The attorney general is not inclined to change the law.  According to The Australian newspaper:

“The previous state government had accepted a recommendation from a committee appointed by the former attorney-general to amend the laws, but current Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie confirmed in a statement . . .that he would not proceed with the change.

“Mr Bleijie said the most recent amendments to the laws, which took effect last year, had not been examined in a courtroom.”

Bondings 2.0 had earlier reported on Fr. Kelly’s online petition to amend the law.  He has collected close to 206,000 signatures from Australia and around the world.  Fr. Kelly commented:

“The international attention on this archaic and discriminatory law is most welcome. . . .Queenslanders don’t want it, Australians don’t want it, and now we can see the world doesn’t want it.”

Fr. Kelly became involved in this issue because of a homicide which took place on the grounds of his parish:

“Richard John Meerdink and Jason Andrew Pearce were jailed for the manslaughter of Wayne Robert Ruks in the grounds of Maryborough’s St Mary’s Church in 2008.

“The court did not accept their defence that Mr Ruks had followed them to the church and tried to grab Pearce’s crotch before he was punched and kicked to death.”

Fr. Kelly was cautiously hopeful after his meeting with Bleijie.  According to Gay News Network, Fr. Kelly commented:

“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.

“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.”

The priest plans to continue his campaign, despite negative messages coming from government officials:

“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.’ ”

Our prayers and support go to Fr. Kelly for this campaign.  May he be successful in correcting this injustice!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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