Tony Keim | From:The Courier-Mail | October 05, 2012 9:58AM
AUSTRALIA’S highest court has granted Finks bikies the right to challenge the validity of controversial Queensland anti-gang laws being used to have them declared a criminal organisation.
The Gold Coast chapter of the Finks on Friday won the first round in their fight in the High Court of Australia in Canberra during a hearing over the constitutionality of tough state laws introduced in 2009.
The Finks’ barrister, Brett Walker, SC, during a “removal application” argued the proposed new laws, as part of the Criminal Orgainsation Act 2009, were unconstitutional and should be heard by the full bench of the High Court.
Barrister Peter Davis, SC, for Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner Mike Condon, said the removal application was not opposed.
However, both Mr Walker and Mr Davis said the issues to be argued before the full bench of the High Court had yet to be finalised.
The court, comprising Chief Justice Robert French and Justice Susan Crennan, granted the removal and ordered the matter be referred to a single judge, most likely Queensland’s Justice Susan Kiefel, to rule on matters to be considered.
The court was told arguments were most likely to target Parts 2 and 6 of the Criminal Organisation Act 2009.
Part 2 relates to powers to declare an organisation as a criminal entity, while Part 6 relates to matters of criminal intelligence.
The QPS move to declare the bikies a criminal organisation was prompted by the shooting of two people at a busy Gold Coast shopping centre in May.
Similar moves in South Australia and NSW to have bikie gangs declared criminal organisations have been defeated in the courts by the Finks and Hells Angels respectively.
Mr Walker led the Finks’ successful High Court challenge against similar laws in SA two years ago.
The QPS is also attempting to have a company allegedly associated with the Finks, Pompano Pty Ltd, declared a criminal organisation.
Finks’ solicitor Bill Potts, after the hearing, said the High Court bid was not about “bike groups”, but about the freedoms of everyday Australians.
“This is not about bike groups,” Mr Potts said from Canberra.
“This is more about a law that goes too far because it seeks to ban associations… (and) trying to make them criminal organisations where no crimes have been committed.”
Friday’s decision by the High Court means a full bench hearing, likely to run several days, will not be heard until early next year.
Finks Take State Law to High Court
AAP | 08:23am October 5, 2012
THE Finks motorcycle club has won the right to fight Queensland’s anti-bikie laws in the High Court.
The High Court today agreed to consider whether parts of the tough state laws, which could result in the club’s Gold Coast chapter being declared a criminal organisation, were unconstitutional.
Finks barrister, Bret Walker SC, successfully argued today the case was of such wider importance that it should be heard by the full High Court.
The club was seeking a so-called “reversal application” against a Queensland police application to the state’s Supreme Court that would have them branded a criminal group under 2009 laws.
Police filed the application against the club, and an associated company called Pompano Pty Ltd, in June.
If successful, the laws could allow police wide-ranging powers to pursue past and current Finks members by restricting their activities and by banning them from recruiting, entering clubhouses or owning weapons.
Brisbane criminal lawyer Bill Potts, who lodged the application on behalf of the Finks and Pompano Pty Ltd, said the laws were an “appalling step too far”.
Friends, brothers, fathers and sons could find themselves declared criminals and prevented from being together if these laws went ahead in full.
“It has a chilling effect on democracy … on freedoms,” Mr Potts told AAP outside the High Court in Canberra today.
“It’s not just a matter of bikies, it’s about bad law.”
He welcomed the High Court decision, saying the aspects of the law questioned the basic freedoms afforded to all Australians.
If the High Court deems the anti-association laws to be proper, then other states and even the Commonwealth could legislate in similar ways.
But if struck down in part for being unconstitutional, the entire laws could become unworkable, Mr Potts said.
He said he expected other attorneys-general to weigh in and support Queensland when the matter comes before the High Court again.
No members of the Finks club were present at the High Court hearing in Canberra.
The application by Queensland police was the first filed under the Criminal Organisation Act 2009, which allows the dismantling of organisations involved in serious criminal activity.
Before the High Court decision, Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said the Liberal National Party had opposed the former Labor government’s organised crime legislation.
“We obviously opposed the organised crime bill, the Criminal Organisation Act, when it was introduced by the former government,” he said today.
“We believe, in Queensland, the best way to go after the Mr Bigs of the world is through unexplained wealth provisions.”
With federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon meeting her state and territory counterparts in Brisbane today, Queensland is opposing a commonwealth push for national laws on unexplained wealth from crime.
“I can categorically rule that out completely – Queensland will not refer unexplained wealth powers to the commonwealth,” he said.
“This is another Big Brother attempt by the commonwealth to try and come in over the top of the states and territories.”
Finks win High Court permission to challenge ban
Updated Fri Oct 5, 2012 12:24pm AEST
The Queensland branch of the Finks Motorcycle Club has won permission in the High Court to challenge a proposed move to declare them outlaws.
In June the Queensland Police Service lodged an application with the Supreme Court in Brisbane seeking to have the Gold Coast arm of the Finks declared a criminal organisation.
That would make it an offence for anyone to associate with the club, using laws introduced by the former Labor state government.
Lawyer Bill Potts says the move is unconstitutional and he is hoping the High Court will allow a challenge in late December or early next year.
“The High Court will determine whether this application is of sufficient public importance and raises sufficient constitutional issues for the full bench of the High Court to make a determination,” Mr Pott said.
“The Criminal Organisations Act could be used to ban a variety of organisations, be it your local RSL, your Rotarians or whoever.”
The High Court has decided it should consider the matter but has narrowed the case to a challenge over the validity of the Queensland Criminal Organisation Act.
The case has been referred to a single judge for directions.