New Laws Crack Down On Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs In Victoria

MARK COLVIN: The Victorian Government is to introduce bills to crack down on outlaw motorcycle gangs and organised crime.

The anti-consorting laws would let police stop convicted criminals associating with each other – both in person and over the internet.

But a lawyer representing motorcycle gang members says similar laws in Queensland have proved draconian and ineffective.

Kellie Lazarro reports from Melbourne.

KELLIE LAZARRO: Police and politicians say Victoria has become a popular ‘safe haven’ for outlaw motorcycle gangs.

But Victoria’s Attorney-General Martin Pakula says proposed new laws would change all that.

MARTIN PAKULA: This is the first step towards a more nationally uniform scheme with Victoria’s laws now being more in line with those in New South Wales and South Australia, and this is a very important advance in terms of Victoria police’s ability to disrupt the operations of outlaw motorcycle gangs.

KELLIE LAZARRO: Under the proposed legislation, anti-consorting notices could be issued to people caught associating with each other, if at least one of them has a criminal conviction and if police believe the notice will prevent further offending.

If those targeted continue to associate, charges could be laid.

The association could include meetings in public and even interaction on social networking sites like Facebook.

Martin Pakula says the tougher laws are part of a wider strategy to disrupt the supply and trade of the drug ice.

Earlier this month, South Australia introduced new laws declaring bikie gangs criminal organisations – where it’s an offence for members to gather in public, wearing club cloth and colours.

Last year, Victoria’s police union warned gangs like the Mongols were moving south to Victoria to escape the tough anti bikie laws in Queensland.

Brisbane based criminal lawyer, Bill Potts, has represented members of various bikie gangs including the Finks, Mongols, Bandidos and Hell’s Angels.

He says anti consorting laws in Queensland have proved ineffective.

BILL POTTS: There is simply no evidence which demonstrates that that has curbed crime in the slightest, or that it’s put a dent in the gang culture. Anti-association laws on their own have had in my view almost no effect whatsoever.

KELLIE LAZARRO: Mr Potts says anti-association laws in Queensland have resulted in only 10 people being charged and to date not one of the cases has gone to trial.

BILL POTTS: And the reason for that is quite simply that people have been charged in circumstances where they’ve been having a drink in a pub or meeting a friend in a public place, circumstances where there’s no evidence that a crime is being committed nor that a crime is being even contemplated or planned.

And in those circumstances the laws were seen to be draconian, ineffective and out of step with the public’s expectations.

KELLIE LAZARRO: There are 22 outlaw motorcycle gangs operating in Victoria, with 81 chapters and about 1,500 members.

Victoria Police has previously supported nationally consistent laws to tackle outlaw motorcycle gangs.

The Victorian Police Association is also yet to view the draft legislation, but has been lobbying for tougher anti-consorting laws, saying existing laws to tackle bikie gangs are hard to enforce.

The Government hopes to get bipartisan support for its bill.

Victoria’s shadow attorney-general John Pesutto says while tougher laws are needed, there are not enough police resources to enforce them.

JOHN PESUTTO: Tougher laws may be a good thing, we’ll look at that, and once we’ve looked at the details we’ll indicate whether we will support it or not. But we are concerned there’s been no increase in police numbers.

KELLIE LAZARRO: The proposed legislation is expected to be introduced into the Victorian Parliament this week.

MARK COLVIN: Kellie Lazarro.

Story By: Kellie Lazzaro | ABC News | 30th August 2015

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