A new NSW inquiry will aim to bring justice to victims of ‘callous, brutal and cowardly’ hate crimes against gay and transgender people.
A new NSW inquiry will aim to bring justice to victims of hate crimes against gay and transgender people.
The investigators will go after unpunished perpetrators responsible for shameful attacks against gays, lesbians and trans people.
While the terms of the probe are yet to be settled, a Liberal MP who has championed the issue said he hoped the inquiry would have strong investigative powers.
“This will be a judicial-style inquiry, which has all the resources of the police and a very strong package of laws about use of phone taps and compelling witnesses to give evidence or go to jail,” upper house MP Shayne Mallard said.
He has been leading a parliamentary inquiry into homophobic and anti-trans crimes, and the new probe is one of his committee’s key recommendations.
“Our parliamentary inquiry is purely investigative, it doesn’t have an ability to bring criminal proceedings, doesn’t have the ability to use police resources to investigate avenues or people of interest … we are an evidence and testimony-gathering body doing analysis,” Mr Mallard said.
However, the volumes of information gathered by the parliamentary inquiry will come in handy for whoever leads the judicial one.
The new probe will likely be led by a retired judge or senior barrister, assisted by a team of lawyers, investigators and police resources with a budget at their disposal.
“This is a stronger tool than the police ever had,” Mr Mallard said.
The NSW cabinet recently agreed to establish the inquiry and Attorney-General Mark Speakman is drafting the terms of reference.
Premier Dominic Perrottet, who announced the inquiry on Thursday morning, said it would address “callous, brutal and cowardly” crimes against LGBTI members of the community.
The parliamentary inquiry found victims of gay and transgender hate crimes often suffered enduring mental and physical trauma as a result of their experiences.
It also found the NSW Police Force “failed in its responsibility to properly investigate cases of historical gay and transgender hate crime”
“This has undermined the confidence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGTBIQ) communities in the NSW Police Force and the criminal justice system more broadly,” the May 2021 report said.
The inquiry also found that it was necessary to acknowledge those past errors so that victims could begin healing.
A submission to the inquiry said there were at least 88 alleged gay and transgender hate killings in NSW between 1975 and 1999 as well as potentially thousands of non-fatal homophobic attacks.
Mr Mallard said the inquiry also took into account anti-lesbian and anti-trans violence that had in the past been characterised as domestic violence or crimes against sex workers.
“In fact, those crimes were homophobic,” he said.
In recent years, NSW Police have offered rewards in relation to several suspected cold case killings thought to be related to anti-gay hatred.
Among the men who went missing in the 1980s were Gilles Mattaini, a 27-year-old Frenchman who lived in Sydney’s Bondi suburb and was last seen at Tamarama in September 1985, and Wollongong news presenter Ross Warren, whose keys were found in July 1989 below a cliff in Tamarama.
NSW Police last year arrested and charged 49-year-old Scott White with the murder of American mathematician Scott Johnson, who was found dead below a cliff near the suburb of Manly in 1988.
Mr White has pleaded not guilty and is set to face trial in June.