An Australian killer who claimed his victim made a gay pass at him has walked free after just four years in jail.
Jason Pearce was charged with the murder of Wayne Ruks in the grounds of St Mary's Catholic Church in the town of Maryborough in Queensland, Australia in July of 2008, but had his murder charge downgraded to manslaughter by using the so-called ‘gay panic defense.’
Under the controversial defense, accused criminals claim that they were so provoked by a gay pass that they were not in control of themselves at the time of the offense, and thus temporarily insane.
Pearce was sentenced in 2010 to nine years imprisonment, while his co-accused Richard Meerdink was sentenced to ten years, but on July 9, Pearce was granted parole and released from jail.
Meerdink will be eligible for parole as early as 2016.
The news comes as the priest of St. Mary’s, Father Paul Kelly, has renewed an online petition campaign to pressure the Queensland Government to close the legal loophole.
The victim’s mother, Joyce Kujala, is supporting the campaign and has called on the Premier of Queensland, Campbell Newman, to change the law.
‘This is a terrible loophole in the law that anyone can use to literally get away with murder,’ said Kujala in a statement, ‘Pearce took my son's life and gave me a life sentence - he got four years and now he's free.’
‘My son was not gay. It just shows that anyone with a smart lawyer can use the defense against anyone.
‘There is no condoning an attack on anyone, regardless of their race or religion or the way they live. This law is a loophole that simply encourages more crime. It’s time for Campbell Newman to close it.’
Father Kelly’s petition has now received close to 185,000 signatures.
However Queensland’s Attorney General, Jarrod Bleigie, has indicated he has no intention to change the law to rule out such defenses being made.