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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

AUSTRALIA - Tough new bikie laws for WA

Exclusive Grant Taylor
Tough new bikie laws for WA
Target: Rebels bikies say the laws will be used against them. Picture: Michael O'Brien/The West Australian

WA's much-hyped anti-bikie laws could be radically overhauled or replaced with even tougher legislation designed to make it easier for police to put criminal gangs out of business.

Attorney-General Michael Mischin has confirmed he is reviewing Queensland's controversial bikie laws - regarded as the toughest in the country - to see whether any "worthwhile amendments" could be made to WA's legislation.

The WA laws are yet to be used almost 18 months after they were introduced.

The Queensland laws give its Parliament the power to ban gangs and prevent members from associating with each other. A total of 26 gangs were outlawed within two weeks of the laws being introduced.

But in WA, police must apply to the Supreme Court for a hearing where a judge determines if there is sufficient evidence for a gang to be declared a criminal organisation.

If successful, police must then go back to court to apply for so-called "control orders" against individual members to restrict whom they can associate with.

It is understood WA Police were close to lodging their first application, but that is now likely to be put on hold while the State Government decides whether it will change the law.

Rebels State president Nick Martin previously said he believed his gang would be the first targeted.

The club's lawyer Michael Tudori said yesterday though he was no fan of the existing WA laws, members at least had a chance to fight applications in court.

He said the Queensland laws took that right away by enabling Parliament to outlaw gangs with "the stroke of a pen".

"Ultimately you would have politicians making decisions without any scrutiny at all," Mr Tudori said.

WA shadow attorney-general John Quigley accused the Government yesterday of allowing bikie gangs to flourish under its watch and said the suggestion of more delays was unacceptable.

"The Barnett Government has had five years to fix the bikie problem but has totally failed to protect the community against their spread," he said.

The Queensland legislation includes mandatory jail terms of between 15 and 25 years for bikies who commit serious crimes such as assaults or rapes.

The heavy sentences are on top of any normal penalty that would have been imposed by the courts and can only be reduced if gang members agree to inform on their colleagues.

It is not known if the State Government is interested in that aspect of the Queensland laws.

South Australia has also been reviewing the Queensland legislation and is considering modifying its laws to give its Parliament, rather than the courts, the power to ban gangs.

The flood of interest in the Queensland legislation comes after a recent High Court decision that rejected a case mounted by the Hells Angels.

They argued the powers were unconstitutional and breached basic human rights.

Mr Tudori said the State Government could expect further legal challenges regardless of what shape WA's laws ultimately took.