I read an interesting article this past weekend in QWeekend; an intriguing magazine by The Courier Mail. The article was titled “unholy war” and was written by Frances Whiting. The article baffles on for a considerable amount of paragraphs how the victim in the story (Wayne Warren Ruks), despite being heavily involved in drugs and alcohol, was beginning to forge an optimistic, fair and promising lifestyle for himself and those around him. “He spoke about how he was ready to stop the drinking, how he hoped to get married and raise a family of his own one day. Both of us were really looking forward to me visiting his land in the following week or so to see what he’d done with it.” said his mother Kujala. I didn’t know Wayne personally, but it never ceases to amaze me that only good, innocent people ever pass away! That’s probably the reason we have an ever increasing crime rate; the bad people just don’t die! Well, according to eulogies and family members anyway.
Back to the story. This is the most gruesome, yet surprisingly not the most morally disgusting part of the story. Ruk was murdered. He was beaten to death by two men named Jason Andrew Pearce (then aged 36) and Richard John Meerdink (then aged 39). They left him to die beside a timber-and-wrought-iron seat in Fr Paul Kelly‘s Maryborough churchyard. People walked past and ignored his body, and to add to the disbelief of the situation, the entire event was captured on the church’s security cameras. Solid evidence right? Wrong. Here’s the confounding conclusion; the two were let off with manslaughter as they pleaded not guilty to murder, and justified it as Ruks had provoked the murder because he made a “homosexual advance” towards one of them. And keep in mind for the next paragraph the security cameras revealed that the killers appeared to jump out at Ruk, after hiding in bushes waiting for him, after he had left the group.
Subsection (1) of Section 304 of the Queensland Criminal Code, Killing on Provocation states: When a person who unlawfully kills another under circumstances which, but for the provisions of this section, would constitute murder, does the act which causes death in the heat of passion caused by sudden provocation, and before there is time for the person’s passion to cool, the person is guilty of manslaughter only. The provocation in this defence has become known as “gay panic”.
Now I, as a critical thinker, currently being educated at a respected university, am encouraged to think logically about this situation. I can make multiple conclusions from this situation.
- Murder is not murder, as long as you were in the “heat of passion”, whatever that means, and although you may have time for your “passion to cool”, if you have time to hide, and wait to attack the person, it can’t be argued that you had time to think about what you were doing.
- Discrimination laws are useless. Who ever heard of a woman getting beaten to death because a gay man was in the “heat of passion” because she cracked onto him.
- If I can lie that they tried to crack on to me, I can kill them for being gay because I was just so passionate.
- If I am a bystander and not filled with the “heat of passion” like my friend is (because someone gay is cracking on to them), I can still assist with the murder, and disposal of the body, and I will be given a lesser punishment.
- If I go to court for the murder, I can be confident that prejudice against the homosexual victim will be present. Everyone involved in the court proceeding will be informed that homosexual advancements were made, even though this may cause people to make their decisions before hearing any of the details. Even if those advancements are proven false.
We are at an epochal moment; enough is enough. To what level of irony do we need to reach, before we say “Hang on! Why is a Catholic Priest leading this fight? Maybe for once, we should listen”. Fr Kelly has a dual degree in Economics and Law, and has taken his campaign to the state Attorney-General, both current and previous, the priest has written several letters to local newspapers, then-premier Anna Bligh and then-AG Paul Lucas. He also wrote to Jarrod Bleijie, then-shadow, now current AG. He said he was initially met with a “barrage of silence” from all sides. He was invited to a meeting with Bleijie, however he says he left with a feeling it was more an exercise in fobbing him off than considering real change.
All this has left me wondering what Ruk’s mother must be thinking and dealing with. She’s had to defend her son’s sexuality due to claims from drunken (accused) murderers, she’s lost her son, she’s been told that not only did people walk by and do nothing, but the entire attack was caught on camera and for some ridiculous reason although it reveals ambush and extended time not “heat of passion”, it is still not enough for disgusting people like Jason Andrew Pearce and Richard John Meerdink, to be sentenced as murderers. In my personal opinion, if they can argue on a “gay panic” defence, they can plead guilty to voilent discrimination against a person’s sexuality.
I was taught that the law is not designed to be fair. But, it IS designed to bring forth justice. It seems that in this situation, the law is neither of the two. The next time you pull out your phone in case a shady figure attacks you; don’t, run. Because when you’re dead, the attacker might justify to the jury that you tried to crack on to them. And the jury will believe it.
By Matthew Compton