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Anti-provocation bill passes 1st reading

Tue 18 Aug 2009 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback View at NDHA

Despite fears that the anti-provocation Bill's first reading would be delayed until later this week it has passed through Parliament with a unanimous vote. The Bill is designed to strike out the 'partial defence of provocation' which allows the killers of gay men to often successfully argue that their victim's sexuality was an understandable contributor to their death. Such a case was successfully made in the Ambach trial last month when the killer of an elderly gay Onehunga man was found not guilty of murder but guilty instead of the lesser charge of manslaughter and the dead man was painted as a sexual predator hiding from family and friends the "dark secret" of his homosexuality. Justice Minister Simon Power, who introduced the Bill, said the existing provision is "fundamentally flawed... it effectively provides a defence for lashing out in anger, not just any anger but violent, homicidal rage." Echoing recommendations by the Law Commission in 2001 and 2007, he said it "rewards a lack of self-control by enabling an intentional killing to be categorised as something other than murder." Power said it also enabled an accused person to besmirch the character of his or her victim, as was apparent in the Ambach trial and the more publicised Weatherston trial. He said repeal of the partial defence would not preclude self defence being raised in appropriate cases. Opposition MP Lianne Dalziel, who prepared an earlier private member's bill but withdrew it after the almost identical government version was tabled, calls the current 'partial defence of provocation', often referred to as 'gay panic' defense, as a "blot of criminal law" which is overdue for removal. She observed to the house that "the evidence as to what allegedly incites homicidal loss of self-control is entirely in the hands of the person who has silenced for ever the only other witness to the event." Gay MP Kevin Hague described the defence to the House as "loathesome." The Bill, delayed until this evening after the House this afternoon debated the deployment of troops to Afghanistan, will now be passed to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee for public submissions.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Tuesday, 18th August 2009 - 11:51pm

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