News & Current Affairs
02 September 2014
Queensland bikies confident court will overturn ‘draconian’ laws
Lawyers representing 17 motorcycle gangs challenge Newman government’s tough anti-bikie legislation
Among the laws being challenged are sections prohibiting three or more bikies from gathering in public.
Bikies are confident that a high court challenge will overturn laws they say are draconian and go too far.
Lawyers representing 17 motorcycle groups have appeared before the high court in Brisbane to challenge the Newman government’s anti-bikie legislation.
Among the laws being challenged are sections prohibiting three or more bikies from gathering in public and laws targeting tattooists who are members of criminal gangs.
Mick Kosenko from the United Motorcycle Council of Queensland, which is funding the appeal, says the legislation has affected people’s livelihoods and stopped gang members raising money for charities.
He said there has been a number of people jailed despite not having any previous criminal convictions.
“I could be locked up with my wife and kids and put in solitary confinement until the judges decide whether my kids and my wife aren’t criminals,” he told reporters outside court on Tuesday.
Kosenko said if the Queensland government warded off the challenge bikies in other states could face the same harsh restrictions.
However, he was confident the seven judges of the high court would see both sides of the story.
“If common sense prevails we will win,” he said.
The high court was asked to look at the Newman government’s Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment laws and other legislation, including those that impose lengthy mandatory prison sentences on bikies who break the law.
In court the bikies’ barrister, Ken Fleming QC, said the laws “extraordinarily and substantially” impair the institutional integrity of Queensland’s courts.
He said they hadn’t been subjected to scrutiny by the courts and created a serious imbalance by forcing judges to impose much harsher sentences on offenders just because they were a member of a gang.
“We say that this result offends any meaningful conception of justice,” he told the packed court. “If people participate in identical circumstances then there should be an identical outcome.”
Fleming said the definition of a criminal association was too wide and could apply to any organisation, even the Australian Bar Association.
The legislature and executive was asking the courts to do their bidding, he added.
Queensland solicitor general Peter Dunning countered that there were limits to who could be prosecuted under the law.
He said it had to be proved they were a participant in a criminal organisation while engaging in the group’s criminal affairs.
Attorney generals from five states and territories and the commonwealth are backing the laws.