NSW Special Commission of Inquiry to investigate historic gay hate crimes

The NSW Government has announced that it will establish a Special Commission of Inquiry into LGBTIQ Hate Crimes, with the Honourable Justice John Sackar as Commissioner to lead the Inquiry.

The decision to establish a judicial inquiry was first announced in November last year, following the publication of a damning parliamentary report released mid-2021.

Premier Domonic Perrottet (pictured above) and and Attorney General Mark Speakman announced the formation of the Special Commission on Saturday, saying some of the crimes it would look in to have remained unsolved for more than half a century.

The Inquiry will have the responsibility of looking into the manner and cause of death in all unsolved suspected LGBTIQ hate crime deaths in the state between 1970 and 2010, where the death was the subject of a previous investigation by NSW Police.

It will also examine the manner and cause of death in all cases from the 88 deaths or suspected deaths previously investigated by Strike Force Parrabell that remain unsolved.

“These unsolved deaths have left loving families without answers for too long.” Premier Perrottet said.

“This inquiry provides an opportunity to focus further scrutiny on suspected crimes and under the leadership of Justice Sackar will work to close a dark chapter of our state’s history that has left an indelible mark.”

Attorney General Mark Speakman said Justice Sackar would have considerable powers to hold hearings, summon witnesses, and inspect documents.

“A Special Commission of Inquiry is a powerful investigative tool to look for answers for which many have been waiting decades. No one should have to suffer the distress of not knowing what happened to someone they love.” Speakman said.

Shayne Mallard, the Liberal MP who chaired the Legislative Council Inquiry that lead to the establishment of the Special Commission of Inquiry said while the forthcoming inquiry would be painful for many people, it was the right thing to do.

“These suspected crimes may have occurred decades ago but for those close to the victims, the scars and the pain still linger.” Mallard said.

“Members of our LGBTIQ community have suffered grave injustices that were not acceptable in the past and certainly not acceptable now.

“This inquiry will be painful, bringing some awful incidents back into the spotlight, bit it is an important process to right past wrongs.”

Alex Greenwich, the Independent member for the seat of Sydney, also welcomed the establishment of the inquiry.

“I am heartened to see the Inquiry established and underway. For too long the LGBTIQ lives lost during this terrible period have not received the justice they deserved.

“It is my hope that this judicial inquiry will provide some closure for friends, family, and communities of those who were victims of brutal and cowardly attacks and help ensure that dark time is never repeated.” Greenwich said.

ACON welcome the appointment of Justice Sackar

New South Wales leading LGBTIQA+ health organisation ACON have welcomed the appointment of Justice Sackar, and the establishment of the Special Inquiry Commission.

ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill (pictured above) said significant questions needed to be answered about the epidemic of violence directed at the LGBTIQA+ community in Sydney over many years.

“For decades, sexuality and gender diverse people in NSW were subjected to horrific hate crimes. This epidemic of violence, along with the slow and inadequate responses to many of these crimes, have left a painful legacy for the loved ones of victims, survivors, their families, and the broader community,” ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said.

“Significant questions remain, and they cannot be allowed to persist unanswered because evidence and memory have been lost. Many of the survivors and the perpetrators may not be with us for much longer.

“It will be imperative that the Commission has strong powers to compel witnesses, follow up on leads, and investigate the suspected involvement of police in some of the acts of reported violence.”

Parkhill added: “It will need to uncover where there have been systematic failures and wrongdoing, particularly in law enforcement systems and justice agencies. This will be critical to ensuring this does not happen again.”

“These crimes took place at a time when many in the community, in public services, law enforcement and judicial agencies thought sexuality and gender diverse people were sick, perverted or criminals. This was reflected not only in terms of the horrific acts of violence committed against us, but also how the system responded apathetically and with inertness to these atrocities.

While assaults and murders against LGBTIQA+ people were less common today, Parkhill said many of the attitudes that fueled violent assaults remained in society.

“Although increasingly a minority, some of these same attitudes about LGBTQ+ people persist today.

“We know through recent breakthroughs in decades-old cases that additional inquiries, sustained community and media focus, and increased resourcing elevates these crimes in the public eye and moves us closer to righting past wrongs.”

Parkhill acknowledged the many people and organisations who have worked tirelessly over many years in bringing attention to past fatal violence and facilitating justice to those impacted by these crimes.

“We pay tribute to all who continue to persevere in their pursuit for truth and justice, including the many parliamentarians, journalists, academics, activists, legal professionals, community advocates, LGBTQ community members and allies,” Parkhill said.

OIP Staff

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