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Saturday, 18 February 2012

New laws to break bikies' silience


15:29 |

 

Bikies who refuse to answer questions at Australian Crime Commission coercive hearings face immediate imprisonment. Legislative amendments introduced in Parliament on Wednesday will see those who refuse to cooperate detained and dealt with in the Supreme Court for contempt - rather than facing a charge that can take up to two years to be dealt with in the lower courts . SA police use the ACC's coercive hearings as part of investigations into high risk crime groups - including bikie gangs - with the most recent gang member summonsed to appear one of the suspects involved in the internal war between Comancheros members. One senior gang figure is currently before Adelaide Magistrates Court on a charge of failing to answer questions at an ACC hearing. The amendment to the Australian Crime Commission (SA) Act 2004 is one of a raft of new legislative initiatives unveiled by Attorney-General John Rau as part of the fight against bikie gangs. Others include new laws preventing gang members from associating, protection for witnesses, harsher bail provisions and amendments to repair anti-bikie legislation that was inoperable following two recent High Court decisions.  Mr Rau yesterday said the ACC amendment was one of several new measures aimed at cracking the bikie code of silence that often hampered police investigations. "It is one of a dozen or more recalibrations that tighten the noose around them a little bit more," he said. Mr Rau said he was hoping the legislative package would proceed through parliament rapidly because his briefings with police indicated there was a danger the current volatile situation with gang violence in Adelaide could escalate. "There is a credible risk that if this legislation is not passed things might deteriorate. I am not prepared to be any more explicit than that," he said. After a meeting with Mr Rau on Friday, Shadow Attorney-General Stephen Wade said the legislation would be discussed at a Liberal party room meeting on February 27. "This Bill is without doubt an improvement on the 2008 Act," he said. "Just as we gave the 2008 Bill thorough scrutiny.......we will also be giving this thorough scrutiny." Opposition leader Isobel Redmond, police spokesman Duncan McFetridge and Mr Wade will meet with senior police tommorrow to be briefed on the extent of the gang and organised crime problems confronting the community. Several senior defence lawyers told the Sunday Mail they thought it unlikely new contempt sanctions would see gang members comply with a coercive hearing. "History has shown us that many take no notice of the threat of jail if they do not comply," one said. "Look at just who has gone to prison for failing to answer questions and who is before court now on the same charges. If they do not want to talk, they won't." In Western Australia last year a Finks bikie was given a two-year jail sentence for failing to answer questions before Western Australia's corruption commission, which has the contempt provision planned for SA. The man was one of five bikies charged with contempt after refusing to give evidence into a wild brawl involving the Finks and the Coffin Cheaters.


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