Candace Sutton, news.com.au
The laws, introduced in different states following violent clashes between insurgent rival gangs, have been ineffective and police anti-gang squads have stopped using them.
The NSW law was brought in after the fatal March 2009 brawl at Sydney Domestic Airport between 18 bikies from rival gangs.
Comanchero gang president Mahmoud “Mick” Hawi murdered Hells Angel Anthony Zervas in a melee amid innocent travellers in the departure hall where Zervas was bludgeoned with a bollard and stabbed in the chest and abdomen.
Seven days later, Zervas’ welder brother Peter was shot eight times as he drove into his mother’s apartment block.
Peter Zervas survived, and Hawi was charged — and eventually sentenced to 28 years prison — but police feared a bikie had begun.
The NSW Government rushed in laws under a new “criminal organisations control” crimes act to curb the actions of bikies and other criminal gangs.
But as stated by the new the report, obtained exclusively by news.com.au, the laws have proven ineffectual.
Tabled quietly in NSW Parliament last week, the “Review of police use of powers under the Crimes (Criminal Organisations Control) Act 2012” was completed in November last year but has remained secret until now.
In it, Acting NSW State Ombudsman Professor John McMillan says that laws introduced to declare outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs) illegal criminal organisations had failed.
“We have concluded that the Act does not provide police with a viable mechanism to tackle criminal organisations, and is unlikely to ever be able to be used effectively,” the report says.
The Ombudsman recommended the laws in NSW be repealed, but also outlined how they had failed in Queensland and South Australia and laid fallow in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
He said that “despite the concerted efforts of a dedicated unit within the Gangs Squad of the NSW Police Force ... no organisation has been declared to be a criminal organisation under the scheme.”
The NSW Police Gangs Squad spent three years in the attempt to have some of Australia’s most vicious and violent gangs declared illegal.
“Concern about the activities of criminal organisations, and in particular OMCGs, had been growing nationally,” the report says.
In NSW, the Gangs Squad has had to rely on other policing methods and its own skills to investigate the gang rivalry which has resulted in the public executions of rivals on Sydney streets.
In the last year, Brothers for Life gang associate and mafia member Pasquale Barbaro was executed last November outside his home in suburban Earlwood, in Sydney.
A month earlier, police had surrounded the Georges Hall home of Hells Angels associate and underworld hitman Hamad Assaad and were preparing to raid him when he was shot dead in broad daylight in his driveway.
Also shot dead in his driveway was Michael “Ruthless” Davey, aka Micky D’ and sergeant at arms of the Rebels outlaw motorcycle gang who was executed in March last year.
Just last month, Rebels gang member Ricky Ciano — who lived a luxury lifestyle police believe due to drug dealing — was found shot in the head in his BMW sports car in the Blue Mountains, NSW.
But as the new report has concluded, control of such violent activity and investigation of the gang perpetrators was not possible or effective using the Crimes (Criminal Organisations Control) Act of 2012.
The new laws, which replaced the emergency 2009 bill brought in immediately after the Sydney airport bikie brawl, “are onerous, resource-intensive, and involve difficulties”, the report says.
The legislation aimed to target outlaw bikie gangs by declaring them criminal groups, restricting members’ association to “earn a dishonest living”.
This was meant to reduce the vulnerability of business at high risk “bikie and organised crime infiltration”.
But in NSW one application against an outlaw bikie gang was mounted, only to have a member of the Hells Angels successfully challenge it in the High Court.
As a result, police abandoned the legislation in 2015.
Instead, NSW Gangs Squad detectives have been targeting criminal and outlaw bikie groups with other powers to more effectively control gang crime.
The Gangs Squad employed “a modernised consorting offence, expanded powers to search for firearms, and restrictions on entry to licensed premises by people wearing OMCG ‘colours’ and insignia”.
In contrast with the failed legislation, NSW Police launched the crack Strike Force Raptor, Australia’s first specifically targeting the criminal activity and anti-social behaviour of outlaw motorcycle gangs.
In five years, Raptor officers arrested almost 2,500 people, and charged them with more than 5,500 offences.
They seized 636 firearms, more than 46,000 rounds of ammunition, in excess of $15 million worth of illicit drugs, and close to $4 million worth of cash and assets from gang members and their associates.
Five other of Australia’s eight states and territories adopted similar legislation to the 2012 NSW Act.
“By restricting members of criminal organisations from associating with each other and recruiting new members, the legislation aimed to disrupt their activities and, in doing so, prevent crime,” the report says.
But the report found that “police in other states and territories have experienced similar difficulties.
“Despite high expectations ... in practice no police force in Australia has been able to
successfully utilise the legislation.”
As a result, “no declarations have been made in relation to any organisations”, meaning that the laws were useless.
NSW Police Gangs Squad members have implemented several ways of infiltrating and controlling bikie gangs, including through the establishment of a Criminal Organisation Unit.
Last year, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced she would abolish her state’s Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment act, or VLAD laws.
The VLAD laws followed a massive bikie brawl at Broadbeach on the Gold Coast in 2013 between the Hells Angels and The Finks.