Australia - Coming to America
BN- The State Government is set to roll out some of the toughest anti-bikie laws in the country as part of a new push aimed at driving criminal gangs out of WA.
Attorney-General Michael Mischin said gang laws were being overhauled to include what he said were the most effective aspects of Queensland, NSW and South Australia’s legislation — described by critics in these States as draconian.
The changes have been signed off by Cabinet and work is under way on redrafting the Criminal Organisations Control Act which was introduced in 2013 but has never been used.
“There is no place for criminal organisations in WA and the State Government will continue doing everything in its power to eliminate them,” Mr Mischin said.
The West Australian revealed in February that the State Government was eyeing off Queensland’s laws after it survived a High Court challenge.
The laws enable the Attorney-General to declare a gang a “criminal organisation” and effectively ban membership overnight without the need for long or costly court hearings.
Twenty-six gangs were outlawed in Queensland within two weeks of the laws being introduced. Under WA’s existing legislation, a Supreme Court judge determines whether a gang should be outlawed based on evidence provided by police that members are heavily involved in organised crime.
Bikies are able to challenge that evidence during special hearings and appeal against the court's decision all the way to the High Court, potentially dragging the process out for years.
It is understood WA Police have had their first application ready to go for some time, but it was put on hold while the legislation was being reviewed.
NSW has a different model from Queensland. It prevents two or more gang members from associating if one has a significant criminal record.
Associating includes face-to-face meetings, phone calls or other forms of communication such as email or through social media. Breaching the laws carries up to three years jail.
Mr Mischin said the NSW laws had also survived a High Court challenge, which meant they could be rolled out in WA without fear of further delays.
It is understood some of the harsher aspects of WA's existing laws would also be retained, such as mandatory minimum sentences for certain types of offences and control orders which restrict where individuals can live, travel and work.