The report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into LGBTIQ Hate Crimes has been welcomed by LGBTQIA+ advocates, who call on the NSW Police Force to action the report’s recommendations
In its three-volume report released today, Commissioner Justice John Sackar made a number of case-specific recommendations. These include establishing fresh inquests into the deaths of Scott Miller, Paul Rath, Richard Slater and Carl Stockton; reinvestigating the death of Gerald Cuthbert; reviewing DNA and other evidence relating to Crispin Dye and Kenneth Brennan; and correcting the Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages for Peter Sheil, Russell Payne, Graham William Paynter, Samantha Raye and Peter Baumann.
Justice Sackar said it was confronting for all those involved to delve into the suspected homicides of 32 people, including many deaths that were “lonely and terrifying”.
“Each homicide was suspected of being motivated, at least in part, by hatred for a person simply because of their identity,” Justice Sackar added.
“It was – and is – confronting to face the reality that, despite all efforts, many of these deaths remain unsolved.”
ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said the special commission had “shone an important light on a dark time in NSW’s history”.
The report additionally laid out 12 recommendations aimed at improving shortcomings in the investigative practices of the NSW Police Force, particularly around unsolved homicides and bias-related crimes.
These include reviewing evidence and conducting forensic testing in light of the latest technological advances; conducting a systemic review of all unsolved cases and setting up a framework for regular review and reporting; updating records and databases of hate crimes; and providing adequate resourcing for staff and/or units to deal with bias-related crimes.
The NSW Police Force was also called upon to enhance the training and education provided to all its officers relating to the LGBTQ community, including cultural awareness, LGBTQ hate crimes and trauma-informed communication and engagement.
Mr Parkhill said ACON was calling on the NSW Government to ensure these recommendations are fully implemented.
Just.Equal spokesperson Rodney Croome also welcomed the recommendations for additional training for NSW police officers, but wanted law enforcement nationwide to work to eliminate bias.
“We urge police services around Australia to heed these recommendations and to ensure crime motivated by anti-LGBTQIA+ bias is no longer brushed under the carpet or overlooked,” Mr Croome said.
Independent Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich MP, who helped secure the establishment of the inquiry, said the report provides a mandate for police and legal reform.
“The multi-partisan support for the creation of the commission gives a mandate for all sides of the NSW Parliament to take the findings and recommendations seriously and act on them,” Mr Greenwich said.
“I thank all the LGBTQ advocates and my colleagues who urged the government to instigate this special commission of inquiry. While the findings and recommendations will be sobering for police and other government agencies; I urge them to embrace the opportunity for positive reforms and not excuse the past.
“My thoughts are with the families and friends of those who were murdered and denied justice because of their sexuality or gender identity.”
While the report did not call for an apology from the NSW Police Force, it did urge NSW Police to consider the value of sincerely and unequivocally acknowledging the shortcomings of their work in the past.
“I have not recommended an apology because I consider that an apology perceived as coming about only because I have recommended it is likely to be of limited value,” Justice Sackar said.
“In my view, an apology is not only appropriate, but the absence to date of an apology from the Commissioner of the NSWPF has been extremely difficult to understand.”
However, Mr Parkhill said that an apology would “only be meaningful for community when recommendations that materially change practice and increase safety and access to justice have been implemented”.
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