Gay panic defense

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The gay panic defense[1] is a legal defense against charges of assault or murder. A defendant using the gay panic defense claims that he or she acted in a state of violent temporary insanity because of a little-known psychiatric condition called homosexual panic.[2] Trans panic is a similar defense applied towards cases where the victim is a transgender or intersex person.



In the gay panic defense, the defendant claims that they have been the object of romantic or sexual advances by the victim[ambiguous]. The defendant finds the advances so offensive and frightening that it brings on a psychotic state characterized by unusual violence.

Guidance given to counsel by the Crown Prosecution Service of England and Wales states: "The fact that the victim made a sexual advance on the defendant does not, of itself, automatically provide the defendant with a defence of self-defence for the actions that they then take." In the UK it has been known for decades as the "Portsmouth defence"[3][4][5] or the "guardsman's defence"[6] (the latter term was used in an episode of Rumpole of the Bailey made in 1980). In Australia, it is known as the homosexual advance defence (HAD).[7][8]

Uses of the gay panic defense

New Zealand

  • In 2003, a gay interior designer and former television host, David McNee, was murdered[9] by a homeless drug user and part time prostitute, Phillip Layton Edwards. Edwards said at his trial that he told McNee he was not gay, but would masturbate in front of him on a "no-touch" basis for money. The defense successfully argued that Edwards, who had 56 previous convictions and had been on parole for 11 days, was provoked into beating McNee after he violated their "no touching" agreement. Edwards was jailed for nine years for manslaughter.[10][11]

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