Last edited: February 05, 2005

Gay Sex Prosecution Condemned

The Community Is Urged this Week to Condemn the Prosecution of a Man for Having Consensual Gay Sex Prior to the 1984 Decriminalisation.

Sydney Star Observer, February 3, 2005

By Tim Benzie

Long-time gay rights activist and barrister David Buchanan has urged the gay community to speak out against a recent prosecution of a gay man who had consensual sex before homosexuality was decriminalised.

Buchanan condemned the Director of Public Prosecution for pursuing a trial against Catholic priest Terry Goodall, who was found guilty last week of having sex with a 29-year-old male teacher in 1982.

“There’s nothing that can be done to tell the DPP what to do or not to do … However, that doesn’t mean to say that people shouldn’t criticise an investigation or a prosecution when there are good grounds,” Buchanan, SC, told Sydney Star Observer.

Buchanan was responding to a report by David Marr in last weekend’s The Sydney Morning Herald in which Marr investigated Goodall’s prosecution.

Goodall was charged with indecent assault and attempted buggery for sexual contact with a 29-year-old male teacher. Goodall, then in his early 40s, fondled the teacher in a Cronulla swimming pool.

The pair then had consensual sex – still regarded an illegal act as the decriminalisation of gay sex in NSW in 1984 was not retrospective.

NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor David Scammell told the Star he would raise the issue with the Attorney-General’s Department at future meetings.

“We’d encourage people to contact us if they are concerned about this law, because if there are enough who are concerned, we will look at this as a possible campaign. We do recognise that this is an area of concern, particularly for gay men over the age of 40,” Scammell said.

Goodall was sentenced to “the rising of the court” (the shortest possible form of punishment, usually only a few seconds long). However, the police raids on his offices and the publicity surrounding the case resulted in Father Goodall’s dismissal from his parish.

Buchanan said the DPP’s investigation was “pathetic”. The argument that there had been an abuse of trust was “blown out of the water” by Marr’s report, Buchanan said, as there was no strict pastoral relationship between the two men.

“The fact that the prosecution in the circumstances of the case was even commenced is a matter for real concern for everyone who had same-sex sexual relations before decriminalisation,” Buchanan said.

The DPP had promised not to prosecute “past consensual acts” at the time of decriminalisation, but this week declared “while such prosecutions would be unusual, each case is examined on its merits”, SMH reported.

Lobby co-convenor David Scammell said elements of religion and trust in the Goodall case might have prompted the DPP to act.

Despite his serious concerns, Buchanan did not advocate lobbying to change the law as he did not think it was achievable in the current political climate.

Lobby co-convenor Julie McConnell said it was unfortunate that some gay law reforms were not made retrospective.

“That is a frustration, but it’s sometimes how we can have wins in terms of reform,” McConnell said.

McConnell said parenting reform was the GLRL’s priority, but did not discount further lobbying to amend the NSW Crimes Act.

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