New laws target criminal gangs
New laws have been introduced targeting the illegal activities of criminal gangs, including criminal bikie gangs, in Queensland. The reforms introduce new offences, increased penalties, enhanced powers for Police and the Crime and Misconduct Commission and stricter bail laws.
About the reforms
The package of reforms includes the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act 2013, the Tattoo Parlours Act 2013 and the Criminal Law (Criminal Organisations Disruption) Amendment Act 2013.
The new Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act 2013 (the Act) provides strong mandatory sentences for members and associates of criminal gangs who commit serious offences as part of their participation in a gang, such as a criminal bikie gang. A new mandatory sentencing regime will be complemented by the ability of the court to reduce sentences where an offender cooperates with law enforcement.
Through significant mandatory terms of imprisonment and the motivation of sentence reduction for cooperative offenders, the Act will target individuals who offend with the support and encouragement of a criminal gang. This, in turn, will aim to seriously disrupt the gang as an organisation.
Limiting the activities of criminal gangs
The Tattoo Parlours Act 2013 will ban members of criminal organisations and their associates from owning, operating or working in body art tattoo parlours. The Act introduces a new occupational licensing and regulatory framework. This will ensure that people authorised to operate in the Queensland tattoo industry have been subject to rigorous identification and probity requirements.
Amendments have also been made to liquor legislation to prevent members of certain prescribed criminal gangs from entering or remaining at licensed premises while wearing items aligned with a criminal organisation (such as bikie gang patches or club colours).
Changes to the criminal law
The Criminal Law (Criminal Organisations Disruption) Amendment Act 2013 contains a range of criminal gang-targeted amendments, including the creation of new offences, increased penalties for existing offences and increased police powers. New offences include:
- three or more members of a criminal gang (including those listed by regulation), being together in a public place
- a member of a criminal gang being at a banned location, such as a criminal bikie gang clubhouse, or banned event
- a member of a criminal gang recruiting, or attempting to recruit, another person to the gang.
Increased penalties include:
- a mandatory minimum penalty of one year’s imprisonment for a member of a criminal gang who commits a serious assault on a police officer acting in execution of the officer’s duty
- increasing the mandatory minimum penalty for evading police to $5,500 or 50 days of actual imprisonment; or for an offender who is a member of a criminal gang, $11000 or 100 days of actual imprisonment
- increasing the maximum penalty for the offence of affray to seven years imprisonment with a mandatory minimum six months of actual imprisonment where the offender is a member of a criminal gang
- automatic minimum three month driver licence disqualification following conviction of one of the new offences or the new aggravated affray offence
- automatic motor vehicle confiscation and crushing following conviction for one of the new offences, the new aggravated affray offence, or the new aggravated evade police offence where the offence was committed in relation to the motor vehicle. This will include where the vehicle is used to drive to or from the place where the offence is committed.
The changes include amendments to enhance police powers:
- Impoundment laws have been expanded to target the motor vehicles of criminal gangs.
- Existing powers to require name and address and to search without warrant will be extended where the person concerned is known or suspected to be a member of a criminal gang.
Changes to bail laws impose additional conditions on members of criminal gangs:
- Where the defendant is a member of a criminal gang, the defendant will be in a show cause situation – for any offence.
- Where the defendant is a member of a criminal gang, and bail is granted, the bail undertaking must include a condition that the defendant surrenders their passport; and they will be detained until compliance with the condition.
Additional powers for the CMC to allow hearings to be conducted to gather intelligence about criminal organisations; and to investigate or hold hearings to respond to an immediate threat to public safety from criminal organisations. A participant in a criminal organisation will not be able to rely upon a threat to his personal safety or property to refuse to answer a question or produce a document at a hearing that involves a criminal organisation. The punishment for contempt at a CMC hearing, which will apply to all witnesses, will be mandatory imprisonment (and for a second or third offence a mandatory minimum of 2 ½ years and 5 years respectively) if a witness refuses to take an oath, answer a question or produce a stated thing or document at the CMC hearing.
Report a crime
Anyone with information regarding the activities of criminal gangs can report it anonymously to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 (24 hours, 7 days).
Cash rewards of up to $50,000 are available if you provide anonymous information to Crime Stoppers that helps police to arrest a member of a criminal gang.
More information on reporting a crime.