News has just come through that the High Court ruled that Hells Angels have succeeded in their attempt to have NSW’s Crimes (Criminal Organisations Control) Act declared invalid.
For two years now governments across Australia have been moving to outlaw bikie gangs. Legislation in all cases tends to follow the pattern of allowing Supreme Court judges to outlaw motorcycle gangs, after a request by the police commissioner, and ban bikie gang members from associating with one another, with stiff penalties for those who disobeyed the ban.
While few Australians have much sympathy for bikies, a point the various states count on while doing this, some of us understand the wider implications of allowing this to happen. Once laws that allow certain groups to be singled out as outlaws, it is a relatively easy matter to extend that to any other group that the state disagrees with. Usually this can be done by executive order.
The law should be there to deal with real crimes, which involve actual coercive acts, not to deny certain groups the right to associate. There are plenty of laws on the books already to deal with any criminals within any group.
The High Court ruled on Thursday that Hells Angels have succeeded in their attempt to have NSW’s Crimes (Criminal Organisations Control) Act declared invalid.
The law was enacted in April 2009 by former premier Nathan Rees following the death of bikie associate Anthony Zervas during a brawl at Sydney Airport several weeks earlier.
Effectively the law allowed Supreme Court judges to outlaw motorcycle gangs, after a request by the police commissioner, and also to ban bikie gang members from associating with one another, with stiff penalties for those who disobeyed the ban.
But barrister Wayne Baffsky, acting for prominent Sydney Hells Angels member Derek Wainohu, who brought the High Court challenge, says he believes the law could easily have been applied to other groups.
“We’re very, very happy,” Mr Baffsky told AAP.
“It’s not just for them (Hells Angels), it’s for the people of NSW.
“Because the extent of the law was extraordinary.
“It was a frightening act in my opinion that targets two or more people.”
Greg Hirst, spokesman for the Brotherhood Christian Motorcycle Club, who helped raise money to fund the legal challenge, also welcomed the ruling.
“Our club is pleased with that result because we believe that the legislation was exceedingly dangerous for the whole of Australian society,” he told AAP.
“Our club wholly endorses the importance of governments to address law and order issues, particularly violence, but this is about inappropriate legislation … that takes away the rights, responsibilities, freedoms of general Australian citizens.”
Legal costs have been awarded to the Hells Angels, Mr Baffsky said.
It seems that all the states have achieved so far is to unify everyone, from Hells Angels and Comancheros, through to the God Squad.