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Wednesday 14 April 2010


Comment: 'Gay Panic Defence' is finally scrapped

Posted in: Features
By Craig Young - 27th November 2009

As a consequence of parliamentary urgency, the archaic "provocation defence" (Section 169 of the Crimes Act) was finally abolished last night. So now what happens?

GayNZ.com political commentator Craig Young takes a look.


 

The rejection of NZ's Partial Defence of Provocation yesterday has to be the most rapid LGBT-related legislative reform to date, as well as the least contested - apart from some fundamentalist reprobates.

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Justice Minister Simon Power, Labour's Lianne Dalziel and Charles Chauvel, the Law Commission and Rainbow Wellington all deserve our gratitude for the ceaseless attention to the attendant injustice involved here and prompt action when the time finally came.

Firstly, the law change means there will be victims' rights equality for LGBT severe assault and homicide victims. Defence counsels will not be able to use manipulative homophobia to mitigate murder to the lesser charge of manslaughter and its diminished severity of imprisonment duration.

Some would say that this outcome was brought at far too high a price, given that an intelligent, compassionate young woman, Sophie Elliott, had to die and her murderer, Clayton Weatherston, had to grotesquely slander her character posthumously in court through his use of the provocation defence to finally convince legislators to act. Granted, some of us may resent the lack of similar compassion in the recent cases of Ron Brown and Peter McNee, but at least no other LGBT homicide victim, their family or whanau will have to suffer through this.

Tasmania's example suggests that there will be a reduced overall number of manslaughter verdicts, which will lead to greater sentence severity in the context of homicides over all. One imagines that the Sensible Sentencing Trust will probably embrace that outcome.

What about the ACT Party? Remembering the Copeland bill against same-sex marriage back in December 2005, this is the second time that ACT has voted against the interests of LGBT New Zealanders. The party chose to disregard the Law Commission Report on the issue and some might argue that this has much to do with the prominence of populists and social conservatives like David Garrett and John Boscawen within what was supposed to be a centre-right social liberal party. One only hopes that ACT will now realise that its failure may endanger its Epsom bolthole and very parliamentary presence if there is an adverse reaction to this, as well there might be. For that matter, ACT should not pose as a 'law and order' party yet vote against a significant increase in sentencing severity within criminal justice policy.

One hopes that the Key administration will now decide to similarly tackle our sole remaining issue of substantive LGBT equality during its term of office, with as much determination and focus as it showed here. It's time for adoption reform.


Craig Young - 27th November 2009

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