Resources for police, not harsh unfair laws, says rights group

An alarming trend has evolved in calls being made for tougher laws whenever a perceived or real problem of rising crime appeared, Liberty Victoria said today.

“Such is the case with recent suggestions that Victoria has a gaping ‘black hole’ in its laws, making it a choice destination for motor cycle gangs,” said Liberty President George Georgiou SC. “There is no black hole.”

He said Victoria has a raft of laws designed to deal with organised crime, among other matters. “The Criminal Organisations Control Act has been in force since 2012. Introduced by former Attorney-General Robert Clark, it allows police to apply to the Supreme Court for control orders against individuals and organisations, such as motor cycle gangs. Control orders may include anti-consorting conditions. 

“Breach of a control order may result in an individual being sentenced to imprisonment of up to five years.” 

He said police also have at their disposal anti-fortification laws and proceeds of crime laws. “As well, there are significant penalties for anyone convicted of crimes of violence and drug offences. It is not clear how more laws will assist in dealing with the problems of criminal activity by motor-cycle gangs.”

Mr Georgiou said Victoria should avoid following the examples of Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.

“The problem with the ‘anti-bikie laws’ in those states is that innocent people get caught up in the wide net that is cast to deal with the problem. Such broad reaching legislation also represents a serious incursion into freedom of movement and association.

“There is no evidence that toughening Victorian laws would outweigh the loss of traditional freedoms.”

Mr Georgiou said Liberty Victoria was not aware of any attempt to use the Criminal Organisations Control Act. “If it has been used, it must have been on a rare occasion.

“If organised criminal activity is on the rise, the answer lies in better resourcing law enforcement agencies. Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana yesterday lamented the fact of inadequate resources to deal with the threat of such activity.” Mr Georgiou said the best deterrent to criminal activity was the prospect of being caught.

“It is re-assuring that the State government has chosen not to respond to the recent publicity in a knee-jerk manner. Any proper review must have regard to adequate resources to law enforcement agencies as well as the impact upon our hard won human rights.”