The United Motorcycle Council of Queensland (UMCQ) has told a review led by former judge Alan Wilson that this was the most “compelling” reason for dumping the former Newman government’s anti-association measures targeting bikies.
The UMCQ, in a submission prepared by Brisbane law firm Irish Bentley and obtained by Guardian Australia, claims the crackdown has led to a “significant increase in violence, intimidation and unlawful conduct” towards bikies and their families by police.
This included the teenage stepdaughter of an alleged Rebels bikie allegedly having an assault rifle pointed in her face during a raid in April in which police mistook their Brisbane home as the residence of another alleged club member.
The UMCQ admitted that the “brotherhood” of bikies – which they called a “deliberately sexist term” – led members to “turn a blind eye” to crimes of their clubmates, which included serious drug trafficking.
But it rejected the “political rhetoric” of the Newman era which had it that “clubs themselves (through their organisational structure) were responsible for the organisation (and presumably the collection of profits) of criminal activity carried out by their members”.
This is at odds with the recent Queensland commission of inquiry into organised crime, which found that some motorcycle clubs were criminal organisations involved in drug production and distribution.
However, the UMQC endorsed the commission’s other findings that the anti-bikie legislation and enforcement had no impact on crime rates or community safety and diverted resources from investigating other forms of organised crime, including online paedophilia and fraud.
The Wilson taskforce is due to
report back next March to a state government
that intends to repeal and replace the Newman
government anti-bikie laws.
About 100 people have been charged since the introduction in October 2013 of anti-association offences, which mandate at least six months’ jail for bikies who go to clubhouses, recruit or meet in public in groups of more than two.
But no one has yet been convicted, with some of the cases dropped and the remainder on hold until after the Wilson taskforce reports.
The UMCQ claimed in its submissions that the high court ruling on a challenge to the laws in 2014 by Hells Angel tattooist Stefan Kuczborski had provided “clear guidelines” that made prosecutions of such cases more onerous.
It argued that prosecutors pursing anti-association offences would now need to produce admissible evidence that a club’s purpose was serious criminal activity rather than simply relying on the government’s “declaration” of a club as a criminal organisation.
This meant a bikie who is “only involved on a social or recreational basis (with a club) cannot, as a matter of law, be held liable by these provisions”.
The UMCQ also claimed that prosecutors might soon be forced to stop using police officers as “expert (witnesses) on what they call ‘criminal motorcycle gangs’” in the cases that remain.
This was because a prosecutor in a current case, in which alleged bikies in Bundaberg were charged with gathering in public, has appeared to concede it was “unlikely that such evidence could ever be admissible”.
Confirmation of this by the magistrate in the case, Barry Cosgrove, could lead to prosecutors “no longer [continuing] to attempt to lead this sort of evidence in these matters”.
The UMCQ argued that the
crackdown was the result of an unproven police
“obsession” with the belief that gangs were
This resulted in police “pressuring a conservative government” – which it claimed was “unduly influenced” by a Gold Coast bikie brawl witnessed by then education minister John-Paul Langbroek – into making motorcycle club membership a crime.
The UMCQ claimed other laws denying work licences to bikies had led to many without criminal records losing their jobs.