|Justice Minister Simon Power is about to announce the abolition of the provocation defence during the current parliamentary term, thus indirectly removing this offensively homophobic (and misogynist) defence counsel tactic from the statute books.
Clayton Weatherston: Guilty of murder, not just manslaughter (Pic: Stuff.co.nz) In the end, though, it wasn't a gay case that destroyed the credibility of the provocation defence. It was Clayton Weatherston, Sophie Elliot's murderer, who exploited the dead young woman's sexual history in an attempt to mitigate the magnitude of his offence. As a coparent, I can only sympathise with Sophie's parents. No-one should ever have to sit through our worst nightmare, the homicide of one of our children. It was odious and reprehensible misogyny that made the use of this defence tactic possible, and it is tragic that a caring, compassionate young woman's life had to be brutally snuffed out for this to happen.
One of the incidental side-effects of the abolition of the provocation defence is that it won't be able to be used anynore in cases where the homicide or aggravated assault victim is lesbian or gay. In any case, it was being undermined by advances in forensic science, which would have led to questions about why one brutal and severe assault that led to someone's death should be classified as murder, while the other was downgraded to manslaughter.
Partners, friends, families, aiga and whanau of LGBT victims of violent crime will welcome this development. Unfortunately, it can't retrospectively apply to earlier cases where the provocation defence was successful. I'd like to see anyone even try to oppose this one. After all, it's about increased sentencing severity, victim's rights, law and order and equality before the law. It would take extreme foolhardiness and insensitivity to do so, against a tide of public opinion from the opposite direction.
Charles Chauvel and Lianne Dalziel should be commended for pre-empting the government and drafting a prior provocation defence abolition bill before this tragedy brought the Key administration decisively onboard. One is left to wonder at the pace of reform, though. Will this proposed legislation now be passed under urgency, or will it be passed through the usual select committee process? Although I tend to be a critic of legislative haste and the abuse of urgency, which invariably leads to bad legislation, for once, I would see little wrong with the prompt abolition of the provocation defence. After all, it is not as if the Law Commission hasn't already drafted a paper on exactly this legislative proposal. Craig Young - 23rd July 2009