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Police urged to apologise for handling of hate crimes

Justice John Sackar said an apology by NSW Police to the LGBTQI community was warranted.

Justice John Sackar said an apology by NSW Police to the LGBTQI community was warranted. Photo: AAP

NSW Police is being urged to earn back the trust of the LGBTQI community, following the long-awaited release of a report into suspected hate crimes.

The report probed the unsolved deaths of 32 LGBTQI people between 1970 and 2010, suspected to have involved hatred or bias because of their identity.

Of the deaths investigated, the inquiry found LGBTQI bias was a likely factor in 25 cases.

The report was highly critical of the approach taken by NSW Police at the time, which inquiry commissioner John Sackar described in many cases as “indifferent, negligent, dismissive or hostile”.

Justice Sackar said an apology by NSW Police was warranted and may in fact be overdue, despite not being one of the report’s official recommendations.

“I have not recommended an apology because I consider that an apology perceived as coming about only because I have recommended it is likely to be of limited value,” he stated in the report findings.

“I urge (NSW Police) to consider the value of sincerely and unequivocally acknowledging the shortcomings of the past.”

Nicolas Parkhill, chief executive of LGBTQI advocacy group, ACON, said an apology before police too more tangible action would be of limited value to the community.

“(The report) makes clear the steps the NSW Police Force need to undertake to properly address this and ensure that healing and justice can begin,” he said.

The report recommended improved training for NSW Police about the LGBTQI community and investigating possible hate crimes, as well as a review of all unsolved deaths with modern forensic tools.

Commissioner Karen Webb said police had made efforts since the 1990s to improve how they respond to the needs of the LGBTQI community.

Justice Sackar said the trauma experienced by many in the LGBTIQ community during that period, and their resilience, should not be forgotten.

“There is always a risk that history such as this will fade from―or never truly enter―the broader public consciousness, and even the consciousness of members of the LGBTIQ community who did not live through this period,” he said.

—AAP

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