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Hagley Park killing [AI Text]

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Hi. I'm Doctor Alison Laurie. I was the Gender and Women Studies Programme director at Victoria University of Wellington here in New Zealand for many years. I'm a writer or a historian and lesbian and gay activist. Today I'm going to be looking at the Hagley Park case. This case happened. It was a killing which happened on the evening of the 23rd of January 1964. On the stage, a gay man named Charles [00:00:30] Hart was cruising in the area inside and outside a brick public toilet near the Armagh Street entrance to Hagley Park in Christchurch. A group of adolescent boys aged between 15 and 17, uh attacked him. They punched him. Uh, they robbed him and they left him dying beside the path. A passerby discovered his body later that night, at about 10. 30 the passerby had [00:01:00] seen the boys who were responsible, and by the following morning, the police had identified them and arrested them and taken statements from them. Who was Charles A. He was a draper from Bleen, aged 35 at the time, and at one point he'd act. He'd lived in Christchurch, and he'd been, uh then he became the manager in Bleen of a branch of the Christchurch Draper store. Millers he'd [00:01:30] been the year before he'd been convicted of indecent assault on another male, and he had been sentenced to three months in prison. And the magistrate had said at the time that he was he'd given him a light sentence because the true parties consented. He was in Christchurch cruising. What he was unaware of was that there'd been a number of queer batterings, uh, in Hagley Park. Uh, at around about that time, Uh, [00:02:00] there were reports from gay men who were sitting in their cars outside the park of seeing him go into the park. Uh, but nobody thought to warn him because they didn't know him. And, uh, the boys were seen running from the park. Uh, afterwards, and some of the people sitting in cars outside were concerned that something terrible had happened. The boys made statements about it. They there was no question whether they'd done it. Uh, they admitted it, [00:02:30] and they and it was described as a queer bashing. Uh, they went on trial on the fifth of May, and the evidence took five days to hear. And the judge, in summing up, reminded the jury that it was not necessary to identify the actual person who struck the final and fatal blow. They all admitted to having kicked and hit him. The, uh, jury retired for seven hours. It was an all male jury, and they acquitted [00:03:00] all the six boys of any crime, which was, uh, absolutely shocking that they did that. The newspaper newspapers reported the crime. The Christchurch Press reported it. And, uh, and there were a number of letters to the newspaper. Uh, but mainly the Christchurch Press were interested in the nature of Juries and whether or not they're still appropriate to our legal system. In the [00:03:30] light of the verdict, nobody appeared to be willing to defend homosexuals really, uh, or to be concerned about, um, whether or not homosexuals should have the same human rights as other people. Uh, in fact, the only person strangely who did so was the judge who had had cautioned the jury not to give any attention to a Hart's private life and reaching their conclusions. The weekly newspaper Truth [00:04:00] uh, which mentioned this case only once a month after the trial, in the context of another story about Juries reaching strange conclusions. And they didn't discuss the sexual dimension of the case. There were some other articles dealing with aspects of the case, uh, one in landfall, which, uh, by somebody called Ian Brouard, who said homosexuals in New Zealand Labour under a triple disadvantage they regarded [00:04:30] with disgust, suffer severe legal penalties if convicted and worst of all, are not even guaranteed the posthumous satisfaction of seeing their ass salients brought to justice. That is, they are not considered equal with other citizens before the law. But he also talked about abnormal and therapy and described homosexuality is not exactly a sickness, but as something that should not be regarded as a crime. There was another article by Vincent O Sullivan [00:05:00] uh, in a journal called comment and that was, uh, that was quite positive. Uh, he thought that the whole trial was, uh full of the notion that the sexual Proclivities of the victim should somehow alleviate the guilt of the accused as if in some way the vice of one rubbed off as virtue on the other. He was outraged by the statement and the summing up of one of the defence lawyers who had said that even if they went to Hagley Park to look for [00:05:30] homosexuals, there was no offence in this. The youth charge had probably learned a sound lesson. The case is a tragic one. By which he meant, of course, a tragedy not for the victim, but for the accused. Uh, there was an absence of comment in, uh, left wing journals, um, and so on. And, uh, the only major periodical to comment was the listener, which both editorialised and public published letters on the case. The [00:06:00] editorial in the lister, uh, by Monty Holcroft, uh, is interesting. He was not particularly concerned about the fate of a per se. Uh, he even made a gesture toward those who favoured the acquittal, remarking some indeed might believe it was better for all the accused to go free than to risk unjust punishment for one or two who were only technically guilty. However, uh, you can't, uh, there would would not have been [00:06:30] a way of, uh, of, uh, making a verdict of that kind. Probably at that, uh, at that time. But he also, uh, stated that Abha deserved compassion, not because his human rights have been infringed or even because he was dead, but because he was sick and we shouldn't treat sick people in this way. However, it this is 1964. And it would be a further decade before the American Psychological Association removed [00:07:00] homosexuality from its list of pathologies. So in 1964 describing a homosexual as sick rather than as morally evil was quite a radical statement. Uh, although the listener was prepared to say that was therefore no more deserving of death than anybody else, it really didn't go any further than that. Interestingly, however, this case, uh, was very important in terms of the, [00:07:30] uh, legal subcommittee of the Dorian Society, which then in the subsequent years, from 1964 through to 1967 formed, uh, the New Zealand Homosexual Law Reform Society. And one of the strongest motivations for forming this society was in fact thinking about the Hagley Park killing. Because homosexual people who didn't call themselves gay at that stage and women didn't call themselves lesbians either were [00:08:00] outraged that this could happen, that this was, uh, here. Somebody could be killed and people admit that they had killed them. And yet uh, nothing happened as a consequence of that case. So a a good thing came out of that in the formation of the homosexual Law Reform Society. And a number of heterosexual people were prepared to be vice presidents of that society formed on the model of the British, uh, the British Society, Uh, because [00:08:30] they also felt that this was a matter of justice. So in that sense, didn't die, uh, for no good cause a tragedy for him. But he was martyred. Uh, perhaps in the cause of what became, gradually a greater and greater momentum toward legislative reform and an increasing awareness, even despite [00:09:00] the very lukewarm responses of the media but an increasing awareness among the public that this really wasn't the kind of thing that we should be seeing in New Zealand. So that is the Hagley Park killing a very important, uh, event in the history of homosexuality in New Zealand.

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AI Text:September 2023
URL:https://www.pridenz.com/ait_queer_history_hagley_park_killing.html