government is looking at new ways to crack down
on bikie gangs after a High Court ruled that
laws for declaring them ''criminal organisations''
The court found by
a six-to-one majority that the law, passed soon
after the Sydney Airport brawl in March 2009,
undermines the ''institutional integrity'' of
the NSW Supreme Court which would have made the
The law had been
challenged in the name of Derek Wainohu, then
president of the Sydney chapter of the Hells
Angels - the first group targeted by police to
be declared a criminal organisation in July last
presidents of the Hells Angels around the
country were delighted, the group's lawyer,
Wayne Baffsky, said. ''It's a victory for
everybody, however it is a limited victory. Time
will tell as to the extent of the victory.''
and some lawyers welcomed the decision.
The case against
the Hells Angels, which involved extensive
preparation by police and lawyers and a
35-volume brief of evidence, will be dropped at
its next court hearing.
under the Crimes (Criminal Organisations
Control) Act was to be a two-stage process.
First an ''eligible'' judge of the Supreme Court
had to declare a group a criminal organisation
after finding its members associated to organise,
plan, facilitate, support or encourage serious
criminal activity and that the group was a risk
to public safety.
Then members of
the group could have been stopped from
associating with others and from working in
The High Court
found a problem in the first stage because the
judge was not required to give reasons for the
decision to declare a group a criminal
organisation - a provision designed to prevent
publication of secret police intelligence.
The court did not
rule on other arguments for the Hells Angels
after finding the law was invalid on this point
But the majority
judgment found the law could be reworded to
overcome this problem and that ''steps could be
taken to maintain the confidentiality of …
criminal intelligence'' when a judge gave
reasons for a decision.
Attorney-General, Greg Smith, said: "We will
examine whether legislation can be prepared
which will adequately address the [court's]
The court loss,
believed to have cost the state millions of
dollars, comes after the High Court struck out
similar laws in South Australia.
The NSW law had
been revised after criticism by the then
director of public prosecutions Nick Cowdery.
Now a visiting
professor at universities, Mr Cowdery, QC, said
yesterday he always believed the challenge would
succeed. ''I would suggest that the existing
provisions of criminal law are quite sufficient
to deal with any perceived threats from
organised crime gangs.''
Dr Andrew Lynch
from the University of NSW said the High Court
often approached issues of civil liberties
''through the prism of dealing with the issue of
constitutional power and in particular … the
importance of the independence of the
Mr Wainohu, who
has since left the Hells Angels, said the court
ruling was a ''big win''.