At the end of an annus horribilis for bikies in the state, the demise of the Outcasts was held up as an example of a gang hounded out of existence by a regime that bans public bikie gatherings, clubhouses and recruiting.
A Courier-Mail report credited the laws with forcing the departure of more than 20 members of the Outcasts, among a total of 317 bikies who quit clubs since the crackdown began in October 2013.
This left only the self-proclaimed Queensland president of the Outcasts, likened by senior police to Monty Python’s Black Knight character, who famously dismissed his loss of limbs as “a flesh wound”.
Former Outcast Russell “Camel” Wattie, a one-time federal Senate candidate, said the problem with this narrative was that the club had formally dissolved in Queensland more than a year before the laws were introduced.
“The only thing I can call it is propaganda,” he said. “They’re using an internal thing in a club that happened 14 months beforehand as proof that the laws are working. It clearly had absolutely nothing to do with that.”
Wattie said the national chapter of the club, based in Sydney, had taken back the Queenslanders’ colours in 2011 and the “Black Knight” was cut adrift.
On the timing of the club’s split, the police agreed. They told Guardian Australia their records indicated the Outcasts had disbanded in Queensland in 2011, despite the remaining presence of its single member.
But it said the Outcasts were considered a criminal gang in New South Wales and Victoria, so had been declared a criminal organisation in Queensland too.
It said Outcasts members had been involved in drugs and violence offences and “demonstrated a willingness to obstruct, intimidate and assault police”.
The new legislation had affected membership of bikie gangs in Queensland, the police said, “with members taking the opportunity to cut ties with the declared criminal organisations”.
Public support has waxed and waned for a crackdown that has led to more than 4,000 charges against bikies and their associates, and police have vowed to press ahead with plans to wipe out the subculture in Queensland.
In recent decades bikies in the state have handed hundreds of years’ worth of jail sentences for serious crimes including murder, drug trafficking and extortion.
However, many bikies who do not have criminal records face a loss of livelihood as a result of bans from industries including the long-associated tattoo business.
Criminologists have also challenged government claims that bikie gangs control the highly fragmented illicit drugs market.
Wattie said bikies had resorted to gathering privately in homes and the subculture – which in his experience was not synonymous with organised crime – would survive underground. “So long as two blokes can ride together, they will,” he said.