New South Wales Police commissioner vows to ‘do better’ for victims of LGBTQ+ hate crimes

The New South Wales, Australia police commissioner has apologised to the families of hate crime victims following a report into LGBTQ+ hate crimes in the state.

Karen Webb released a statement on 25 February in response to the Special Commission of Inquiry, which found that officers in the force were “indifferent, negligent, dismissive or hostile” towards LGBTQIA+ victims and their families. 

The report made 19 recommendations in December last year, including new inquests into the deaths of several LGBTQ+ men. 

Commissioner Justice John Sackar recommended monitoring DNA databases for matches to forensic evidence uncovered by the inquiry, and a review of all unsolved homicides between 1970 and 2010. 

Sackar didn’t formally recommend an apology be given to victims of LGBTQ+ tragedies and their families but did urge the force to “consider the value of sincerely and unequivocally acknowledging the shortcomings of the past”. 

Webb apologised for the previous treatment of victims and promised that NSW Police would learn from the findings of the report. 

“To the victims and families that NSW Police failed by not adequately and fairly investigating those deaths between 1970 and 2010, I am sorry,” she said.

“I realise that this has meant missed opportunities to identify possible offenders as new leads emerged or as new forensic advances became available.

“And I acknowledge the increased suffering experienced by victims and their families where the crimes were motivated by bias against members of the LGBTIQ community.”

Webb said NSW Police would “use these lessons to continue to improve”.

Of the 34 deaths considered in the inquiry, Sackar found there was “objectively reason to suspect that LGBTIQ bias was a factor” in 21 deaths, and that “LGBTQ+ bias was a factor” in four deaths.

The other nine deaths looked into by the report were considered to be either misadventure or suicide. 

The report comes after a 28-year-old NSW police officer was charged with two counts of murder after the disappearance of Australian TV personality Jesse Baird and his partner Luke Davies.

Australian authorities had expressed “grave concerns” for Baird, 26, and Davies, a 29-year-old Qantas flight attendant, after finding bloodied clothing and other items in a bin in Sydney. 

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