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Saturday 10 October 2009

Ulterior Motives?

Posted in: Comment
By by Craig Young - 27th July 2009

Do abolitionists have ulterior motives? I say in my case, yes.
Opponents of provocation defence abolition have descended to ad hominem abuse, darkly muttering that abolitionists have ulterior motives. In my case, yes. The provocation defence sanctions violence against women as well as homophobic homicide.
Granted, abolition of provocation defence will mean that any future homophobic homicides will not be downgraded to the lesser penalty of manslaughter relative to murder, and their perpetrators will recieve longer prison sentences as a result of culpability for their crimes.
However, when I investigated the debate abroad, I found that Sophie Elliot was not alone. Our own Women's Refuge is quite right to be angry at the misogynist use of Sophie Elliot's past sexual and personal history in the Weatherston murder case. Why did Weatherston try to use the provocation defence in our own context? Simply because it succeeds overseas sometimes, in contexts other than homophobic homicide.
In Victoria Australia, Julie Ramage was a middle-class battered woman who left her husband, who then killed her. Victorian feminists were justifiably outraged that Jamie Ramage was only convicted on the basis of manslaughter, and only got nine years imprisonment in this case. Thus, they successfully mobilised public opinion, as did Phil Cleary, brother to another victim betrayed by a male-dominated judicial system, and a sterling opponent of viclence against women. As a result, and commendably, the Victorian Law Commission issued a series of Defences of Homicide Reports, which proposed the repeal of the provocation defence in that state.
Victoria's  ALP state government acted quickly, and repealed the offending clauses, resulting in abolition of the provocation defence within their new Crimes (Homicide) Act 2005. Earlier, Tasmania also abolished the defence of provocation in 2003.
Therefore, there are ulterior motives at work, here. I freely admit that as an antisexist man who is implacably opposed to violence against women, I would support Women's Refuge if it wanted to see abolition of provocation defence as well, because it is not only homophobic in practice, but also renders homicidal violence against women excusable.
Clayton Weatherston tried to use it for that reason, and probably wouldn't have been able to do so had it not been for the manifest injustice to Julie Ramage, which prompted law reform in Victoria.
I urge LGBT supporters of provocation defence abolition to be equally concerned about those female homicide victims who might have equally been cheated of fair and equitable sentence severity in this context, as well as those gay male victims.


Phil Cleary: Getting Away With Murder: The True Story of Julie Ramage's Death: Sydney: Allen and Unwin: Sydney: 2005.
Karen Kissane: Silent Death: The Killing of Julie Ramage: Sydney: Hodder: 2006.
Victorian Law Reform Commission: Defences to Homicide: Final Report: Melbourne: 2004.
New Zealand Law Commission: The Partial Defence of Provocation: Report 98: Wellington: New Zealand Law Commission: September 2007.

by Craig Young - 27th July 2009

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