Community demands police apology for response to anti-gay murders in Sydney

Community demands police apology for response to anti-gay murders in Sydney
Image: Photo: Twitter

LGBTI advocacy groups have responded to the New South Wales Police Force’s Strike Force Parrabell Report into historical anti-gay hate crimes, calling for improved oversight of police and a formal apology for how the crimes were handled.

The police have released the final report, which reviewed 88 deaths between 1976 and 2000, focusing on whether or not there was homophobic bias.

Of the 88 cases reviewed, 63 were declared solved, 23 remain unsolved and two were not reviewed.

The report determined that 27 cases had evidence or suspected evidence of bias crime—including five that remain unsolved—and a further 25 were found to have insufficient information to make a determination.

LGBTI health organisation ACON has responded to the report, calling the figures “alarming”.

“The Strike Force Parrabell Report confirms a substantial number of these crimes were motivated by anti-gay bias,” said ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill.

“It also states that there was a high proportion of cases where there was insufficient evidence to absolutely determine bias.

“These findings are alarming and speak to the extraordinarily high level of violent crimes that were directed to members of our community during this time, often going accounted for.”

Parkhill acknowledged the work by police in reviewing the cases, and said that returning unsolved cases to active investigation would be welcomed.

“Victims of these crimes, as well as their surviving loved ones and family members, deserve truth, justice and closure,” he said.

The report contains 12 recommendations, including new initiatives such as the establishment of an LGBTI conference for police, implementation of a revised system for early identification of bias crimes, and an expanded LGBTIQ Liaison Officer (GLLO) program.

“The GLLO program has had significant benefits for the LGBTI community and we support the recommendation for the program’s expansion,” Parkhill said.

“But before we expand it, we would like to see a review, involving LGBTI community members and organisation, to enhance its effectiveness.”

Following the release last month of ACON’s own report into historical homophobic and transphobic murders, Parkhill questioned whether the police report’s recommendations go far enough.

“While we support Strike Force Parrabell Report’s recommendation for a revised system that can assist frontline operational officers to better identify and record bias crimes, we believe this needs to be coupled with a strengthening of Bias Crimes Unit’s capacity to more fully respond to the needs of LGBTI community members,” said Parkhill.

Among the other recommendations outlined in ACON’s report was an independent inquiry into the actions of the various arms of the criminal justice system, to fully understand the impediments to justice during this period in history.

ACON is also seeking a formal apology by the police to the LGBTI community for inadequate responses to violence throughout the period covered in the report.

“We would welcome an apology from the New South Wales Police Force to the LGBTI community,” said Parkhill.

“This would send a positive sign to any same-sex attracted couple who are still too frightened to hold hands in many places around the state for fear of violence.

“Importantly, it will go a long way in healing the grief and trauma experienced by victims, families and other members of our communities.”

The New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSWGLRL) has echoed the call for an apology and an inquiry into police oversight.

“[As well as] an apology from Commissioner [Mick] Fuller for those affected by historical bias-based crimes in New South Wales, we ask for a commitment from government to ensure the efficacy and appropriate oversight as highlighted in recent requirements of vilification legislations, for the ongoing safety of our LGBTI communities,” said a NSWGLRL spokesperson.

“It is also paramount that New South Wales Police continue to focus on improving its culture and conduct towards LGBTI individuals.”

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