Police Admit To Past 'Marginalisation' Of LGBTI Community

"There were certainly people murdered because of their sexuality."

The NSW Police service has admitted to historical marginalisation of the LGBTI community, as part of a report ruling 27 deaths of gay men in recent decades to be hate crimes.

Strike Force Parrabell, an initiative to "bring the NSW Police Force and and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer community together", released a review of 88 potential gay hate deaths recorded in the state between 1976 and 2000.

Of those cases, 63 were solved and 96 people charged -- 84 with murder, nine with manslaughter, and a further three with other offences.

Police patrol at the Sydney Mardi Gras (AAP Image/Joel Carrett)

"The NSW Police Force must acknowledge and has, to some extent, acknowledged its part in marginalisation of the LGBTIQ community during the 1970's, 80's and 90's especially," the report's author, Assistant Commissioner Tony Crandell, wrote.

"However there has been historical moments and movements within the NSW Police Force, and community generally, demonstrating a collective willingness to protect gay men, and more contemporarily, the LGBTIQ community from violence."

Earlier this year, NSW Police formally apologised for conduct around the first Sydney Mardi Gras in 1978, where marchers were assaulted and arrested.

In a statement, Crandell acknowledged the "ugly" past.

“While not perfectly documented, violence against the LGBTIQ community is a well-known blight on human history, not just in NSW -- or even Australia -- it is a not-so-secret shame for the entire world,” Crandall said.

“Our work was scrutinised by academic experts, and the results show, we didn’t always agree, but what is clear is that there were certainly people murdered because of their sexuality during this time.

Police now participate in, and support, events like the Sydney Mardi Gras (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

“It’s an ugly part of our history -- it needs to be acknowledged -- and we need to do everything we can to make sure no one is ever again fearful for their life because of who they are.”

The 88 specific deaths were reviewed following a 2013 article from the Australian Institute of Criminology, which also alleged state police had taken part in bashings and did not take action around reported crimes.

"Obviously, there were many more deaths recorded in NSW between 1976 and 2000. There is no correlation between the 88 deaths identified and  others confirmed during that period of time in NSW. The focus of investigators was the list developed and published by the AIC," police said in the report.

Of the 88 deaths cited in the AIC report, the Parrabell review ruled eight included evidence of a bias crime, and a further 19 were suspected bias crimes; 25 had insufficient evidence to determine a bias crime; and 34 cases found no such evidence.

A further two were not reviewed -- one due to an alleged death not being to be confirmed, and another occurring outside the NSW jurisdiction.

(Getty Images)

Many of those deaths with ruled to be bias crimes or suspected bias crimes included offenders travelling to well-known gay "beats", or having uttered homophobic comments during the leadup to the death.

Five of those deaths which police ruled had evidence of a bias crime remain unsolved. Police said these unsolved cases will be assessed and undergo a formal review.

More than 40 percent of the cases were defined as being motivated by robbery, 19 percent had other motivations, 18 percent had an undetermined cause; but 12 percent were found to be motivated by homophobia, and eight percent by paedophilia claims.

In ten cases, the victim was heterosexual.

Among 12 recommendations made to police, which will be implemented, include:

  • a review of criminal investigation training to "ensure sufficient and ongoing ethical and cultural values are taught and embedded throughout an officer's career"
  • the endorsement of LGBTI educational programs "as a permanent part of the recruit development and learning system" for new officers
  • expanding and improving the LGBTIQ liaison officer program, which provides police support to the community
  • a mandatory LGBTIQ conference to be attended by police from other jurisdictions

"The NSW Police Force has many responsibilities to many communities of NSW including the delivery of services that ensure safety and security. When people do not feel a general sense of community safety there is a failure of policing," Crandell wrote.

"To address this failure, policing must be structured to include and protect our most marginalised communities with the provision of equal rather than special consideration."