Twenty gay men bashed daily, NSW inquiry told

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Anthony Crandell told an inquiry that gay bashers were given a social licence to inflict violence.

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Anthony Crandell told an inquiry that gay bashers were given a social licence to inflict violence. Photo: AAP

Assistant NSW police commissioner Anthony Crandell has told a landmark inquiry about 20 gay men were violently bashed every day for a period spanning more than four decades.

The special commission of inquiry, in its second block of hearings, is probing the police approach to suspected hate crimes against LGBTQI people between 1970 and 2010.

Counsel assisting Peter Gray, SC, questioned Assistant Commissioner Anthony Crandell, the commander of Strike Force Parrabell, on Tuesday.

The taskforce reviewed 88 deaths of LGBTQI members from 1976 to 2000, concluding that 23 remained unsolved.

Gay people ‘mistrustful of police’

“I became aware … when I undertook…sexuality and gender diversity training… and information was given to me, that there were written records at the time of up to at least 20 reports per day of bashings of gay men,” Mr Crandell said on Tuesday.

“You, I presume, immediately appreciated that that was a much higher reporting scale than had been reported to the police?,” Mr Gray asked to which Mr Crandell agreed with.

Mr Gray continued with his line of questioning noting “that is because, largely, gay people were mistrustful of the police and unwilling to report to police?”

“Yes, and I think there’s elements of that today,” the senior police official replied.

Lack of consequences for attacks

Mr Crandell explained the reasons behind the multiple daily gay bashings were due to an “inherent lack of consequences and accountability”.

“Perpetrators were given a kind of social licence to continue inflicting violence upon members of the gay community,” he added.

The royal commission-style inquiry, established at the urging of a parliamentary probe following the Parrabell report, has powers to compel witnesses to attend and to testify.

In a final report in 2018, Mr Crandell said the force’s past indifference to gay bashings had been coupled with a tacit social tolerance of violence directed at gay men and the LGBTQI community in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.

“It is clear and beyond question that levels of violence inflicted upon gay men in particular were elevated, extreme and often brutal,” the report said at the time.

No intention to downplay gay hate deaths

Later in the hearing, Mr Gray asked if police officers had downplayed, as recently as 2014, claims of levels of gay hate murders.

“I don’t think there was an intention to downplay … I do think there was concern about the numbers on the basis that 88 gay hate deaths in my opinion was a lot,” Mr Crandell said.

“I wanted to get some investigative truth around the numbers… I wanted to have some evidence … these deaths were homicides”.

“I thought the number was high”.

The inquiry continues with other witnesses due to appear including a member of the crime prevention command and former and current co-ordinators of the force’s hate crime unit.


Topics: NSW Police
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