Recently, discussion has emerged of new, super tough ‘anti-bikie’ laws, which are designed to curb the apparently criminal activities of ‘bikies’, or patched members of 1% motorcycle clubs. These laws will make it an offence to publicly display gang insignia such as the names of clubs or ‘1%’ tattoos. They also ban public consorting by members of clubs. The legislation is called the Criminal Law (Unlawful Consorting and Prohibited Insignia) Bill 2021 and has yet to become a law.
Hearing about these new laws might jog your memory a little. You might be wondering, didn’t the WA Parliament already bring in super tough anti bikie laws some time ago? Laws where the government could declare a bikie gang a criminal organization? What happened to those – were they ever used?
Back in late 2012, the WA Parliament introduced the Criminal Organisations Control Act 2012. It took a year to be proclaimed and became law in November 2013. It’s still a law in force today. News articles at the time were to the effect that police were ‘ready to use new bikie laws’ and the public expected that various 1% clubs would be declared criminal organisations.
The law allowed the police to apply to a Supreme Court judge to declare an organization, such as a 1% club, criminal. Once that happened, members could be given an order banning them from consorting and wearing their gang colours. That is, it was similar to the new super tough anti-bikie laws that are going through Parliament at the moment. Only it was introduced around 8 years ago. And it required an application to a Supreme Court judge, rather than making the wearing of colours by prescribed clubs illegal generally.
Although the Criminal Organisation law is still in force, it was never used by the WA police. These laws were touted as ‘some of the toughest anti-bikie laws in the country’. It’s not entirely clear why they weren’t used, but it appears that the then Attorney-General indicated he was ‘taking a cautious approach’ to using the laws as they had pending challenges in other states such as Queensland.
In Queensland, club members took the State to the High Court, claiming their anti-bikie laws were unconstitutional. Ultimately, this challenge was unsuccessful and the anti-bikie laws in Queensland live on.
Despite the appeal being rejected, the WA police have never used our Criminal Organisation laws against any 1% motorcycle club, and the laws are still gathering dust on the shelves of Parliament. It’s unclear why it’s taken the Parliament a further 7 or so years to bring in these new laws, and why they never used the ones we already have. It remains to be seen whether the new laws will be passed and if so, whether they will ever be used.
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