Outlaw bikie gangs could be banned from wearing gang colours in public and subject to greater stop-and-search powers under laws proposed by police to “dismantle and destroy” WA’s criminal networks.
WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson announced the reform plan on Wednesday shortly after confirming detectives had made a breakthrough arrest in relation to the “outrageous killing” of former Rebels boss Nick Martin in a public, crowded place.
“I have already commenced discussions with the Premier, the Attorney-General and the Minister for Police … to strengthen the laws concerning consorting and criminal association between gang members, associates and people who professionally facilitate the way these organised crime gangs operate,” he said.
“We’ll also be recommending to outlaw the wearing of gang colours and gang insignia in public.
“We’ll also be recommending to strengthen the existing money laundering offences and to broaden the stop, search and seizure powers in respect to organised criminals.”
The proposed laws follow police clamping down on organised crime in the wake of the public shooting of Mr Martin on December 12, with 136 search warrants issued since his death resulting in 102 people charged and 55 firearms seized.
Anti-consorting laws are already in place in Queensland and New South Wales, however a bill proposing similar outlaw bikie gang legislation in WA failed to pass Parliament in 2020 after hitting a roadblock in the upper house.
Last year, Attorney-General John Quigley blamed the delay on the Liberal Party.
“These anti-consorting laws could be used to seriously disrupt these organisations,” he told Radio 6PR in December.
“If the police intercept them on a telephone call talking to each other, they can be arrested and put before the court with a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.”
Mr Dawson said WA’s existing laws were not sufficient to deal with organised criminal gangs.
“I actually contest the terms I’ve heard others use in law enforcement about disruptions – we’re into dismantling them and destroying them,” he said.
“I do not like the fact that organised crime groups can ride around with colours on blatantly.
“They put ‘1 per cent’ on their tattoos, that say, ‘We’re 1 per cent of the community because we work outside the law’, well in that case let’s regulate them, they don’t want be regulated, let’s regulate them.”
Asked if any new stop-and-search laws could impact law-abiding motorcycle riders or groups, Mr Dawson said he was confident the laws would not be an overreach of power.
“We’re not after stupid powers, we’re after laws that work,” he said.
“This will be carefully worked through at a policy level.”
The announcement of the proposed laws comes two weeks after Mr Dawson declared he wanted police to have more powers at the interstate border to stop and search vehicles entering WA for illicit drugs.
He claimed COVID-19 border-related closures had resulted in WA crime being reduced by “almost half” and methamphetamine usage dropping by 23 per cent.
“I’m not saying we want to live in a police state, we want to live in a state where we can actually wipe out drug traffickers, that’s the aim I’ve got,” Mr Dawson said on March 3.
Existing laws currently allow police to stop and search a vehicle if there is reasonable suspicion.
New powers introduced in 2017 also allow police to randomly search vehicles along a declared drug transit route.
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