High Court: Bikies 2, Governments Nil.

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.

From SMH:

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.

8 thoughts on “High Court: Bikies 2, Governments Nil.

  1. This is a great result. Not only does it strike down a bad law it is also an opportunity to articulate an important freedom.

  2. I imagine that those Christian bikers have a few smarts and are aware of the down side of draconian legislation. A hell of a lot of the mainstream who agree with ‘stronger measures’ have no expectation of ever being on the receiving end.

  3. Bikies loose on the streets! We’ll all be murdered in our beds! It’s the end of civilisation! It’s better for hundreds of innocent people to be wrongly imprisoned than to let one bikie loose on the streets! Obviously, the pleece need more powers! Victorians know how to handle things. There’ll be NO swearing OR Hell’s angles there!

  4. Its been summarised here:

    In their ruling, the High Court judges agreed with concerns that the anti-bikie law meant normal court procedures could be bypassed.

    Their concerns centred on the fact that defendants could not appeal decisions made under the Act, the provision for hearings to be held in private and the lack of regard for the normal rules of evidence.

    The judges said the Supreme Court would be asked to make rulings “without regard to the rules of evidence”, based on information not disclosed to defendants and with no obligation to provide any reasons for judgments.

  5. The United Motorcycle Council (the bikies’ umbrella group) endorsed the Outdoor Recreation Party (aka LDP) in the NSW state election in March. We attended their rally in the rocks. I addressed their Council meeting and had various discussions with Wayne Baffsky, Greg Hirst and of course UMC President, ‘Ferret’. I have considerable sympathy for most of them; their clubs are like family to them.

    Not a single other political party was interested in the issue.

  6. It would be interesting to find out what head of power was challenged to invalidate the law. That is: how did the law violate the Australian Constitution?

    The full judgement can be read here: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/2011/24.html

    Essentially the decision was based on the fact that the legislation conferred administrative responsibilities on a judicial officer (ie a judge). The court is very careful about maintaining the separation of powers. That means there is a risk the legislation may be changed so that organisations and individuals can be declared by a public servant (eg Police Commissioner) or a Minister instead.

    I described this legislation when it was first introduced in NSW here: http://ausgunowners.wordpress.com/2009/04/05/those-who-would-deny-freedom-to-others/

Comments are closed.