Priest hits out at defence

MARYBOROUGH'S Catholic priest Paul Kelly has come out strongly against the use of the so-called gay panic defence, which has been said to explain the actions of defendants who killed men in two separate court cases in Maryborough.

Richard Meerdink and Jason Pierce were convicted of the manslaughter of Wayne Robert Ruks inside the grounds of St Mary's Catholic Church earlier this year.

Fr Kelly is the priest at St Mary's Catholic Church where Mr Ruks' body was found by a parishioner on July 4, 2008.

The accused alleged that Mr Ruks had made an unwanted homosexual pass, which sparked the bashing.

Because the man was found on the grounds of his church, Fr Kelly followed the case closely - and was disgusted to find that an unwanted homosexual advance, or the gay panic defence, could provide an argument for the men on trial to have their conviction reduced from murder to manslaughter.

During the trial, Mr Ruks' mother, Joyce Kujala, was forced to come forward to defend her son's sexuality, stating that he was not homosexual.

The point Fr Kelly wanted to make is that although he too finds the story unlikely, it should not matter whether Mr Ruks made a homosexual advance that night or not - the gay panic defence simply should not exist.

"It doesn't have to be justified - it doesn't even have to be proved," he said of the defence.

"Even if the story was true, even if it did happen that way, it doesn't seem at all acceptable."

He said the ultimate test of the defence was whether society would tolerate a man beating a woman who had made a pass at him.

"No one would tolerate it," he said.

"I can't see why there is this legal loophole."

Earlier this year another case went to trial concerning the death of Stephen Ward in August 2008, a hitchhiker who was bashed to death by John Patrick Petersen after Ward made a homosexual pass at him.

Mr Petersen admitted to hitting Mr Ward between 20 to 30 times during the attack.

During his trial, Petersen's defence barrister said his client was intoxicated and was provoked by the gay come-on because he had been abused as a teen.

Fr Kelly said that should be no excuse.

"It's an unacceptable excuse - those men didn't deserve what happened to them," Fr Kelly said.

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