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AUSTRALIA - Bikie crime crackdown as anti-gang law put to test

OFF THE WIRE
BY: Mark Solomons
Source: couriermail.com.au
POLICE are poised to mount the first crackdown on bikie crime using Queensland's controversial anti-gang laws.
Detectives have been working for two years gathering intelligence on members of a major Queensland bikie club and expect to make an application to the Supreme Court within months.
"We're good to go," Det Supt John Sheppard, head of organised crime at the QPS, said. He declined to name the group but acknowledged it was one of the seven outlaw clubs whose Gold Coast chapters were profiled in The Courier-Mail this month.
It would be the first time the Criminal Organisation Act has been used since it was passed in 2009 and Queensland authorities are hoping to succeed where other states failed.
Attempts to implement similar laws in South Australia and NSW were successfully challenged in the High Court by members of the Finks and Hells Angels, respectively.
The application must first pass a public interest test and then be accepted by the courts. Police can then apply for control orders against club members.
They can then ban them from associating with certain other people, attending certain places - such as clubhouses - touting for new members, possessing weapons and even prevent them from applying for certain jobs.
Police can also obtain orders to remove "fortifications" from premises, including cameras.
"It's meant to limit their mobility, to limit their recruiting ability," Supt Sheppard said.
He said police had "watched with interest" developments elsewhere in Australia and expected the people targeted would try to put up the same hurdles.
"They're probably preparing for it," he said. "I'd be surprised if it wasn't challenged in the High Court."
Crime fighters complain that bikies refusing to give evidence and intimidating witnesses hampers investigations, even where there are powers to compel testimony in secret hearings under the threat of jail.
"For really hard-nosed people, six to eight months inside is never going to deter them," one senior investigator said.
Parliament could consider amendments to the Act that law enforcement agencies say are needed to protect confidential sources as soon as this week.
Former Crime and Misconduct Commission chairman and Fitzgerald-era corruption-buster Robert Needham is the public interest monitor who will review the police application.
His role sets Queensland apart from the other states that have tried to crack down on bikie gangs. Another difference is that the application is made to the Supreme Court itself rather than individual judges.
The Queensland laws were opposed by the LNP, civil liberties groups, lawyers and bikies, who put aside traditional club rivalries to campaign against them.
A spokesman for the United Motorcycle Council Queensland, which represents outlaw clubs, said an application would "waste time and taxpayers' money".
"We'll deal with it when it gets here," he said.
- additional reporting by Josh Robertson

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