John Sackar has been named commissioner of the inquiry, which will look into unsolved deaths within the LGBTIQ community
The NSW government has launched a special commission of inquiry to address LGBTIQ hate crimes.
As per an announcement made on Friday, NSW Governor Margaret Beazley signed the Letters Patent that would allow the inquiry to commence under the recommendation of Premier Dominic Perrottet. NSW Supreme Court Judge John Sackar has been named the commissioner of the inquiry, which will look into the manner and cause of death for unsolved deaths in NSW within 1970-2010 that involved members of the LGBTIQ community, were previously investigated by the NSW Police Force, and were suspected to be hate crimes.
The inquiry will also cover the 88 unsolved deaths or suspected deaths considered by Strike Force Parrabell, the government added.
“These suspected crimes may have occurred decades ago but for those close to the victims, the scars and the pain still linger. Members of our LGBTIQ community have suffered grave injustices that were not acceptable in the past and are certainly not acceptable now,” said Shayne Mallard, chair of the legislative council inquiry. “This inquiry will be painful, bringing some awful incidents back into the spotlight, but it is an important process to right past wrongs.”
Sackar has been granted the power to conduct proceedings, call on witnesses and inspect documents, according to Attorney General Mark Speakman. Moreover, Sackar will consider the findings released in inquiries and reports like the In Pursuit of Truth and Justice report released by the AIDS Council of NSW.
“This inquiry provides an opportunity to focus further scrutiny on suspected hate crimes, and under the leadership of Justice Sackar will work to close a dark chapter of our state’s history that has left an indelible mark,” Perrottet said. “These unsolved deaths have left loving families without answers for too long.”
The announcement of the inquiry was lauded by LGBTIQ+ law firm Dowson Turco Lawyers.
“For decades, gay men and transgender people in NSW were subjected to horrific hate crimes. Many murders were committed with impunity because of a slow and inadequate response from the justice system. The LGBTIQ+ community is hurting and wants perpetrators of murders and assaults prosecuted for their crimes,” partner Nicholas Stewart said.
He pointed out that the commission needed to have the power to “compel witnesses, follow up on leads, interrogate evidence and refer suspects for prosecution.” He acknowledged that a special commission of inquiry was more restricted compared to a royal commission, but expressed his confidence that the special commission would be “rigorous and will lead to prosecutions.”
“This commission must consider the gaps in prosecution briefs of evidence and look to fill those gaps through investigation,” Stewart said. “We know that recent breakthroughs in decades-old cases have resulted from new approaches to policing, private resources and campaigning, and sustained community and media focus.”
“We pay tribute to victims, their families and friends, members of the NSW Parliament, ACON NSW, the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby and the hard-working campaigners who have pushed for coronial inquests and police re-investigations.”