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HomeNewsTaskforce set up to probe suspected NSW gay-hate deaths a ‘paper review’

Taskforce set up to probe suspected NSW gay-hate deaths a ‘paper review’

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Police set up a taskforce to “review not reinvestigate” suspected gay-hate killings in NSW to look like they were doing something amid intense public scrutiny, an inquiry has been told.

On Wednesday, the first senior NSW police officer was grilled as part of a special commission of inquiry into unsolved suspected hate-crime deaths.

Assistant Commissioner Anthony Crandell told the inquiry that police created Taskforce Parrabell in 2015 to review the deaths or suspected deaths of 88 men between 1976 and 2000.

He said the taskforce was created after intense media and public scrutiny in 2010 over suspicious deaths with potential gay-hate motivations across NSW in the decades prior.

Media coverage at the time included allegations of deliberate police inaction, police taking part in gay bashings and police brutality towards LGBTIQ people.

Thirteen investigators poured over files related to the cases for about 18 months, using a specially developed metric to examine if there was a likely gay-hate bias motivation.

Under questioning by counsel assisting the inquiry, Peter Gray SC, Mr Crandell said the team was mandated to “review not reinvestigate” the cases.

“I felt the team had sufficient ability to look at the motivations to determine whether the suspected deaths were related to hate crime,” he said.

Mr Crandell described the taskforce’s work as a “paper review based on the holdings we had”.

“So the response to all that outrage was Parrabell, going over ground that had already been covered to be seen to be doing something?,” Mr Gray questioned.

“Correct,” Mr Crandell responded.

“Yes, there was a great deal of media. But it was helpful from a social policy perspective to look at the gay hatred around at the time.”

Asking whether NSW Police could have reinvestigated the unsolved cases, Mr Grey questioned whether a better response to public scrutiny would have been to reopen the cold cases.

Mr Crandell, who headed up the taskforce, said he would have liked to, but there “simply wasn’t the resources”.

He agreed that some senior police at the time held opinions that the reports of unsolved suspected gay-hate killings were exaggerated.

Taskforce Parrabell’s final report into the 88 cases found 63 had been solved and 27 were found to have been related or suspected of being related to bias crime.

Twenty-five cases had insufficient evidence to determine whether they were likely motivated by bias crimes.

Of the 23 unsolved cases, five were suspected of being hate crimes, four were determined to contain no evidence of bias crime and 14 had insufficient evidence to make a determination.

The special commission of inquiry before Justice John Sackar continues.

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