The NSW Legislative Council has moved to establish a parliamentary inquiry into hate crimes committed against LGBTI people between 1970 and 2010.
Advocates and the families of those affected have been lobbying for an investigation into 30 outstanding cases, on top of at least 88 murders of gay and transgender people during the period.
It has been established to explore whether the nature of the NSW criminal justice system impacted the protection of LGBTI people in NSW and affected the delivery of justice to victims and their families.
Case studies of Alan Rosendale, Scott Johnson, John Russell, Ross Warren and potentially others will be of particular focus.
An inquiry into Johnson’s death last year ruled it the result of a gay hate murder, where it had initially been declared a suicide.
The inquiry will investigate whether these roadblocks to justice are now addressed by current policy and practice.
The role of the “gay panic” defence in anti-LGBTI hate crimes more generally will also be explored, and other matters related to hate crimes which occurred across the four decades.
The inquiry has been established with multi-party support, with Liberal party Chair of the Inquiry Shayne Mallard welcoming the opportunity for families, friends and the broader community to share their experiences with Parliament.
“The gay hate crimes, bashings and murders are a dark stain on our city’s past that needs to be fully exposed for the sake of the victims, their families, friends and the community in general,” Mallard said.
“This Inquiry will not only look at the violent crimes committed against the LGBTIQ community but will also review current policies around hate crimes to determine if any short comings have been addressed.”
NSW Labor’s Penny Sharpe will also sit on the inquiry. Sharpe said she was glad members from multiple parties were able to work together to establish the investigation in order to seek a sense of justice for victims and those close to them.
“The ferocity and frequency of violence targeted towards members of the LGBTIQ community in the past decades has been exposed over many years,” Sharpe said.
“The two reports delivered this year were important steps towards understanding this violence and warrant further examination.
“Victims and their families and friends still have questions that remain unanswered.
“I look forward to this inquiry as a means to help find answers and to make sure that state government agencies are doing everything in their power to ensure that violence against the LGBTIQ community is addressed and ultimately eliminated.”
The inquiry was welcomed by advocates from the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL), who have been collecting evidence regarding hate crimes for over 30 years
“This inquiry is overdue. For the heartbroken friends and family members of these individuals, who were targeted and murdered, it has been a decades long journey for justice and redress,” said GLRL co-convenor Lauren Foy.
“And that journey is not over.”
Foy warns that the report released as a result of the NSW Police’s Operation Parrabell was disheartening and only added to the call for an inquiry.
“The NSW Police spent pages and pages of its Parrabell report attempting frame these violent murders as somehow ‘a part of the times’.
“They also ducked any obligation they had to assess the role of police bias in the often woeful response to these crimes due to widespread social prejudice against LGBTI people.
“Murder has always been considered a crime in NSW. Social prejudice has never been an excuse for murder. This shows just how far is left to go for NSW Police in 2018,” Foy said.
The GLRL also believes that there is increasing evidence that attitudes towards LGBTI people within NSW Police’s internal culture have not been sufficiently addressed.
“In the past year we’ve seen shocking revelations about an alleged culture of institutional homophobia within NSW Police, including bullying of employees at Newtown Local Area Command, and a failure to take seriously cases of domestic violence reported by LGBTI people,” Foy said.
“Unfortunately this goes to the highest levels of NSW Police, with the current Commissioner having to give evidence in the Newtown homophobia case.”
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller delivered an official apology to the Mardi Gras ’78ers last month, vowing “never to take a backwards step”.
“An individual living in any corner of this state should be able to deal with any NSW Police employee with confidence that they will be treated equally and respectfully,” Foy said.
“Until that becomes a reality, NSW Police have not done enough to earn that confidence and NSW Parliament, sadly, must act to make it so.”