A parliamentary report noted NSW police “failed in its responsibilities to properly investigate” gay and transgender hate crimes. (Getty)
A landmark New South Wales (NSW) inquiry into brutal hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ+ community hopes to bring “long delayed” justice after 88 LGBTQ+ people were murdered between 1976 and 2000.
The special commission of inquiry was established in April after it was recommended by a parliamentary report which stated NSW police had “failed in its responsibilities to properly investigate” gay and trans hate crimes.
Today (2 November) the inquiry, led by justice John Sackar, began its first hearing.
During the session, senior counsel assisting the inquiry, Peter Gray, said: “Justice in these cases has been long delayed, and long awaited.
“This may be the last chance for the truth about some of these historical deaths to be exposed.
“We need to hear from anyone who can help us do that.”
In order to find answers, a team of independent barristers, solicitors and investigators have worked through more than 100,000 documents from 40 years of police and coronial files, as well as other sources on the hate-related deaths.
Gray said investigators involved in the inquiry would examine deaths “potentially motivated by gay hate bias” and “suspected hate crime deaths”.
Sydney’s LGBTQ+ hate crimes peaked in the ’80s
Anti-gay hate crime peaked in Sydney during the ’80s AIDS epidemic, with 88 gay men killed between 1976 and 2000, despite the decriminalisation of homosexual sex in New South Wales in 1984.
Gray listed around 20 LGBTQ+ unsolved deaths from the period including the 1989 killing of Kings Cross-based John Hughes, who was found murdered in his own apartment with his hands and feet bound with electrical cord and a pillow slip over his head.
Hughes, who was 45, had bruises and cuts to the back of his head and a belt had been tightened around his neck, which led to his death by suffocation.
An associate and sometime flatmate of Hughes was charged with murder, but after being tried before a jury, was acquitted.
Australia’s largest sexuality community health organisation, ACON, told The Guardian that the brutal killings included everything from stabbings and strangulation to bludgeoning and shootings.
In 2018, with the release of the Strike Force Parrabell report, NSW police acknowledged “without qualification both its and society’s acceptance of gay bashings and shocking violence directed towards gay men and the LGBTIQ community”.
The force confirmed: “It is clear and beyond question that levels of violence inflicted upon gay men in particular were elevated, extreme and often brutal.”
In the next couple of months, two sets of hearings will feature witnesses, with the special commission set to deliver its report to the NSW governor in June 2023.
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