Police fail to utilise bikie laws but
overstep legal authority during raids, NSW Ombudsman finds
A review has cast
doubt on whether NSW police powers targeting outlaw motorcycle gangs
[OMCG] are necessary, after finding they have not been used in the
three years since they were introduced.
In 2013 police
were given greater powers to seize weapons, drugs and alcohol.
The laws also enabled them to raid
a suspected OMCG clubhouse for weapons and explosives, without a
warrant, if it was declared a restricted premises.
NSW Ombudsman John McMillan told
Parliament police had only applied for one such declaration in the
past two years, and that was withdrawn after the owner of the
premises stopped it being used as a bikie clubhouse.
Professor McMillan said police did
however conduct seven searches with warrants during the period of
the review from November 2013 to October 2016.
"So far police have used the new
powers only to conduct a search of premises belonging to bikie
clubhouses to see whether there were restricted items there," he
"Those searches could have been
undertaken using existing powers.
"Overall we were not able to
conclude that the amendments have enhanced police's ability to
disrupt OMCGs or to detect firearms".
Despite his department's findings,
Professor McMillan stopped short of calling for the changes to the
Restricted Premises Act to be repealed.
"We've recommended a further
review and certainly if in a couple of years there has been no use
of the law you could question whether it's achieving any particular
purpose in having it on the statute books," he said.
Greens MP David Shoebridge said a
further review was unnecessary.
"When the Parliament passed
through these extraordinary powers to the police, they said as part
of the check and balance we're going to have a review by the
Ombudsman, so if there are any problems ... it'll be picked up by
the Ombudsman," he said.
"The laws aren't needed [and]
where they've been used, they've been abused — these are a set of
laws that should now be scrubbed off the statute book."
Police overstep the mark during
raids, Ombudsman fears
The NSW Ombudsman's report also
raised concerns that police over-reached their authority during the
"While the searches were
correctly undertaken using existing powers, some of the
activities during the course of the search had doubtful legal
basis," he said.
It was found in six searches,
police virtually stripped the clubhouses, seizing items including
furniture, clothing and memorabilia, and sound and lighting systems.
The officers also dismantled bars
and stages to remove them from the premises.
"We doubt whether there was legal
authority to take that away," Professor McMillan said.
He called on the Commissioner of
Police to take steps to ensure his officers lawfully used seizure
Professor McMillan also believed
police might also have over-stepped their authority in handling
people found on premises by demanding identification and conducting
He recommended police be given a
new power to deal with individuals so that raids can be conducted
safely and legally.