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New laws to ban convicted criminals from hanging out together or interacting online

EXCLUSIVE: OUTLAW bikie gangs and organised crime networks will be “smashed’’ in Victoria under a tough new laws banning convicted criminals from hanging out together or interacting online.

In an unprecedented crackdown, criminals who defy the police issued bans will face up to three years in jail and more than $54,000 in fines from this Friday (July 1).

The move is expected to cripple criminal networks according to police Minister Lisa Neville, including the weapon and ice trafficking rings that continue to grow in Victoria.

``We want to send a strong message to gangs — there’s no place for criminal behaviour in our community,’’ she told the Herald Sun.

``We promised we would give Victoria Police the powers they need to smash gangs, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.’’

``Anti-association laws aim to disrupt and dismantle criminal gangs, particularly those responsible for driving Victoria’s ice trade and committing violent crime in our community.’’

From Friday (July 1) elite Echo Taskforce members will have the power to issue directives to ­people convicted of a crime stopping them from associating at the pub, at clubhouses or even on social networking sites such as Facebook.

Dubbed the ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy, if the offending crims are caught flouting the ban three times within three months or six times a year, they will be charged.

The ramped up assault on illegal gang activity comes under the Criminal Organisations Control Amendment (Unlawful ­Associations) Bill 2015 which passed last year.

It came after Police Commissioner Graham Ashton warned Victoria’s anti-consorting laws must be beefed up to stop bikie gangs going across state borders to flout weaker penalties.

The power to crackdown on crime networks comes as after the Herald Sun revealed increasingly brazen activity by gangs in Victoria this month.

A raid on a Comanchero bikie on June 10 uncovered a Russian grenade more powerful than the explosives used by the Australian military.

The alarming find has triggered a probe into how the weapon came to be in Australia.

It followed a shoot out at the outlaw motorcycle gang Bros Yarraville club on March 5, which seriously wounded two bikie members, when a gunman opened fire on 50 club members at the gathering.

The latest round of expanded powers have been welcomed however it is feared organised crime networks will turn to encrypted communications technology to thwart the crackdown.

In March the Australian Crime Commission warned encrypted devices were becoming “far more pervasive’’ across the country.