Friday, October 26, 2007

Ending provocation

Four years ago, David McNee was beaten to death in a brutal and vicious attack. His killer was subsequently acquitted of murder, but convicted of manslaughter, on the grounds that McNee had "provoked" him by making homosexual advances. This "provocation" defence, enshrined in s169 of the Crimes Act, was subsequently used to excuse at least one other anti-gay hate crime, as well as a case in which a man beat his wife to death with a cricket bat because she was going to leave him. Now, the Law Commission is recommending repeal, declaring that provocation is no excuse for murder.

The full report is here. Reviewing the cases, it finds that rather than being used by battered women, the provocation defence is primarily used by misognyists and homophobes to excuse the inexcusable. It also argues that it is simply philosophically unsound, and that while human frailty ought to be recognised, no ordinary person should respond to any provocation, no matter how strong, by killing. The law is thus a murderer's charter, and needs to be repealed.

The report includes draft legislation for repeal, and hopefully the government will advance it as quickly as it did the repeal of sedition. This law is simply shameful, and the sooner it goes, the better.