Bikie gangs form fund to mount High Court challenge
Colin James, Legal Affairs Editor: The Advertiser | May 22, 2008
MAJOR bikie gangs have formed a fighting fund to mount a High Court challenge against controversial laws aimed at driving them out of the state.
The Hells Angels, Finks, Rebels and Gypsy Jokers have told their lawyers – including several Queen’s Counsel – to join to overturn the laws, passed by State Parliament despite widespread criticism from lawyers and civil libertarians.
The Advertiser has confirmed the gangs have begun raising funds to ensure the country’s best constitutional experts can fight the laws in the High Court of Australia once all other legal avenues have been exhausted.
The bikie gangs also have discussed holding a mass protest by jointly riding hundreds of motorcycles into Victoria Square while State Cabinet is sitting inside the State Administration Building on a Monday morning.
The developments come as the SA Police Crime Gang Task Force prepares to use the Serious and Organised Crime (Control) Bill to directly attack the leadership of the state’s eight bikie gangs, with special attention on such office holders as presidents and treasurers.
Task force officers this week underwent special training on how to enforce the laws, which enable police to obtain restraining orders to stop bikies from associating with each other or anyone with criminal records.
Police Commissioner Mal Hyde can apply to Attorney-General Michael Atkinson to have bikie gangs declared illegal, with courts empowered to issue restraining orders on individual members.
Legal sources yesterday confirmed several bikie gangs had decided to mount a united challenge against the laws, which were modelled on the Federal Government’s anti-terrorism legislation.
Prominent criminal defence lawyer Craig Caldicott said the challenge would be based on a test case to be identified once the laws came into effect in the next few months.
“There are people putting together funds for the purpose of going to the High Court,” he said.
“The laws are draconian and there’s no doubt they’re going to give rise to challenges at all levels inside the court system.”
Mr Caldicott, who represents several well-known bikies, said lawyers were particularly concerned decisions made by magistrates and judges under the laws could not be the subject of judicial review.
David Edwardson QC, one of the top criminal barristers in the state, believed it was “appropriate that bikie gangs had formed a fighting fund to challenge the laws because they were flawed and lacked transparency in a number of material respects.”
“It is a great concern to me, at least, that there is no way of challenging a decision made by the commissioner of police or the Attorney-General under these laws,” he said.
“And, while today they are saying it is confined to bikies, what is saying that it will not be the BLF (Builders Labourers Federation) tomorrow.”
The Democrats and Greens unsuccessfully attempted to have the laws opened to judicial review – where judges could independently assess decisions – during a lengthy debate this month in the Legislative Council. The State Opposition supported the Government in blocking the move, agreeing it would enable lawyers to launch legal challenges in the state’s courts.
Police Minister Paul Holloway last night said: “To allow judicial review or legal challenges to declarations, control and public safety orders created by the new laws would have undermined the operation of the State Government’s anti-bikie legislation.”
He said members of organised criminal groups were well funded and had access to the best legal advice and representation. The new laws were expected to be effective from late July or early August.
This is a change, they actually posted the comment I left.
Don’t kid yourselves that these so-called “anti-bikie laws” are designed just to target the “bikie gangs.” They are designed to be used on anybody that the state police and government choose to target. Their lauded anti-fortress law which was supposedly only put in place to target the outlaw motorcycle clubs’ club houses can be used against you if you have a high fence with a lockable gate surrounding your home. Under the law, if you deliberately make it difficult for just one policeman to enter your home, you may be charged under the anti-fortress laws. Similarly with the new law that supposedly gives police the power to order a club member to take his colours off isn’t limited to outlaw motorcycle club members. The law will allow police to give orders and press charges on clothing that they “deem” to be unsuitable for society. And now they give the police and Attorney General the oportunity to declare illegal any motorcycle club that they choose. Again this will be a law on the books that will allow the state police and government to target any group they wish to persecute and declare illegal.
Cailen Cambeul of Adelaide