So the parts you needed for your Harley came in on late Friday afternoon. You spent all day Saturday working on your bike and you got the oil stains on your favorite pair of jeans and dirty fingernails to prove it. After a long day, you grab a beer and as you sit in the garage enjoying a hard days worth of work, when you receive a text message from another bikie.
“Hey mate, tomorrow little John’s birthday. Let’s ride, get a couple of cold ones, some barbie.”
Excited to take out your motorcycle for a ride, you reply: “Beauty! Let’s ride.”
After you hit the send button, make sure to call your lawyer/barrister next.
Apparently, that text message you sent is against the law. And if you belong to a motorcycle club in Australia, that’s enough to get your charged with a crime. Huh?
Trying to crack down on the motorcycle clubs, new consorting laws means a person can be charged if they “consort” with two or more convicted offenders on two or more occasions after one warning. Think about that: you don’t need to attend law school to know there is something inherently wrong with that law.
What if my brother belongs to a club? I invite him over to the house for a barbie (by the way, I love using that word) and he brings my cousin who is the VP in another club? I’m in trouble now? I can’t text my own flesh and blood and ask how he is doing? What if everyone in my family belongs to a 1%er club except me? I can’t hang out with my family anymore?
If you still don’t believe this is true and I can’t blame you, a recent release of records thanks to the Freedom of Information Act shows otherwise. Since 2012:
- There has been a total of 8,556 warnings issued.
- Fifty-four (54) people have been charged. Forty-two (42) of those were related to bikie clubs.
- Between April of 2012 – September of 2015, five have been sentenced to jail.
- The numbers continue escalating with 20 people convicted in 2015 as compared to only one person each year between 2012 – 2014.
- In 2015, 842 people received a pre-emptive warning versus in 2012 when only 280 people received such warnings
- At a National Meeting in 2015, more than 30 Nomads were warned.
In order to enforce the overly broad law, multiple government agencies have united which includes Task Force Maxima, an economic crimes unit, National Anti-Gangs Squad, Australian Taxation Office, Australian Federal Police and QPS.
“Our investigations and our intelligence suggest we’re having an effect. Where we’ve seen groups or criminal networks that would regularly meet, we are seeing that not being the case now.”
And per Deb Wallace the NSW Police Gangs Squad Commander
“The cornerstone of motorcycle gangs is this element of brotherhood, and we are talking about outlaw motorcycle gangs. The one per cent, who say they are outside the law — their whole ethos is about being able to congregate and be together. By using the consorting legislation we target the association of them, but also the club houses which has really got a cultural aspect to it.”
Besides banning colors and associating with club members, the Restricted Premises Act has been used to shut down club houses as well.
So far, the oldest person charged with consorting since 2013 was 73 years old and the youngest was 13. I don’t know about you, but I definitely fear the crime sprees that 13 year old children and 73 year old men are involved in. Of course, the National Gang Squad defends its actions by stating that they are preventing the recruitment of future gang members.
Habitually “consorting” with offenders can result in three years in jail and a fine of $16,500. If I’m 13 years old and my father belongs to a club, am I going to jail for consorting because I go to the weekend picnic or on a ride with other club members?
The consorting laws as expected, have been challenged, thus, why there hasn’t been more charges and arrests made. Arguments made by those wrapped up in the large web of “consorting” is that it prevents freedom of association, but the high court has already sided with the government saying the laws are valid.