- A study of the new anti bikie consorting laws found that warnings had been issued to 18 children aged between 10 and 15
- The laws are aimed at cracking down on organised crime before it begins by making it illegal to “habitually consort” with anyone convicted of an indictable offence after being warned by police
As the bikies bring out the legal big guns to fight the controversial laws in the country’s highest court, the barrister for an intellectually disabled 21-year-old also caught up under the legislation said the breadth of the new section was “quite extraordinary.”
Peter Lowe, counsel for Charlie Forster who was jailed after breaking the laws in Inverell, told the court that people who have never been convicted of an offence can be convicted under the new section 93X of the Crimes Act.
The laws are aimed at cracking down on organised crime before it begins by making it illegal to “habitually consort” with anyone convicted of an indictable offence after being given an official warning by police.
“Habitually consorting” is defined as consorting whether face to face or via social media like Facebook and Twitter with at least two convicted offenders on at least two occasions.
Nomads boss Simon Tajjour, 34, the first person arrested under the laws, a fellow bikie Justin Hawthorne and Mr Forster, who was released from jail pending his appeal, are challenging the laws in the High Court armed with former Supreme Court judge Greg James QC, an SC and four other barristers.
The taxpayer-funded Australian Human Rights Commission has also been given leave to appear before the court as “amicus curae” or friend of the court, arguing that the laws breach the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Australia is a signatory.
Mr Lowe told the court that a study of the new consorting laws by the NSW Ombudsman had found that warnings had been issued so far to 18 children aged between 10 and 15, 65 Aboriginal teenagers aged between 16 and 17 and homeless people who had been drinking and talking to convicted offenders.
He said the law was so wide that it could affect communication between people for ever because indictable offences run from minor assault and shoplifting to murder and rape.
NSW Solicitor-General Michael Sexton SC will address the court this afternoon.
In written submissions, he has denied claims that the laws infringe any implied freedom of communication or freedom of association in the Constitution.
“The consorting laws seek to avoid criminal activity by preventing deliberate as opposed to coincidental contact between criminals or between criminals and others who might succumb, then or later, to criminal behaviour by reason of that contact,” Mr Sexton said in submissions.
“The proposition that there is a stand-alone right to freedom of association implied in the Constitution is unsupported by, indeed it is contrary to, authority and must be rejected.”
The legislation was brought in by the NSW government in 2013 after a series of drive-by shootings in south-west Sydney.
The hearing before all seven High Court judges is expected to continue tomorrow.