Tasmania Police continue crackdown on gangs

The Rebels on their national run in Tasmania last year.
The Rebels on their national run in Tasmania last year.

More than 250 bikie gang members will be under the watchful eye of Tasmania Police if new laws are passed.

The proposed consorting and anti-patch legislation would stop organised criminal gangs associating with each other and wearing their colours in public.

Both laws have already passed in other parts of the country and Assistant Commissioner Glenn Frame said Tasmania could be seen as a “safe haven” for outlaw motorcycle gangs fleeing from stricter states.

“Other states have implemented strong laws to protect the community from them and there is a danger that if Tasmania does not do the same, these gangs will increase their criminal activities here,” he said.

“There are serious crimes, including murder, that they have been involved in [in Tasmania].”

The consorting or anti-association laws would only apply to those who have been convicted of serious crimes, but the anti-patch laws would mean all outlaw motorcycle gangs would be restricted from wearing their colours in public.

A person served with a consorting notice would be restricted from associating with anyone listed on that notice, for a period of five years.

The laws would not target law-abiding motorcyclists in Tasmania.

“The criminal activities of outlaw motorcycle gangs distinguish them from other recreational motorcycle groups who gather purely to socialise and ride motorcycles,” Assistant Commissioner Frame said.

“Unlike these other bodies, outlaw motorcycle gangs self-identify as ‘one-percenters’, their view being that if 99 per cent of people are law-abiding, they are the 1 per cent who are not.”

The five gangs on Tasmania Police’s radar are the Bandidos, Rebels, Outlaws, Devils Henchmen and Black Uhlans.

There are also fears members of the Comancheros club, which has been linked to murders and turf wars interstate, are looking to cross the strait.

Last year the Bandidos expanded into East Devonport and it was understood the club had plans to establish a Launceston chapter.

The other four targeted clubs already have a presence in Tasmania, and both the Bandidos and Rebels held their national runs in the state late last year.

The Rebels have been linked to drug trafficking syndicates across the country and internationally.

Members of the club were charged in 2014 after a police operation led to Tasmania’s largest drug seizure in the state’s history.

Four kilograms of ice was intercepted in Tasmania and another four kilograms was seized in Queensland.

In 2013, senior leaders of the Launceston Rebels were jailed for trafficking in more than $500,000 of methamphetamine. 

The Rebels made headlines again last year when gang associate Ryan Zmendak pleaded guilty to trafficking methamphetamine

He was involved in importing about $7.4 million of drugs from the United Kingdom in 2014.

When about 400 Rebels members arrived in Tasmania in October, police put them on notice.

But the anti-bikie message spread during their ride, and the Bandidos run the following month, received mixed feedback from the public.

Despite this, Tasmania Police is standing firm and pushing through with its latest crackdown.

The public consultation period for the Organised Criminal Legislation paper is now open.

“We will not tolerate criminal activity, anti-social or intimidating behaviour, or breaches of our laws,” Assistant Commissioner Frame said.

The push has already received some negative feedback, with the Tasmanian president of the Australian Lawyers Alliance describing the proposed legislation as “absolutely unnecessary”.

“The right to associate with who you want to associate with, the right to join organisations and wear an organisation’s colours are the fundamental rights that every Australian enjoys,” Fabiano Cangelosi said.

“To take those rights away from people merely because they are members of an organisation and that organisation has for whatever reason caused some people some concern, that is not the way things are done in this country.”

The proposed changes were welcomed, however, by the state’s Police Minister Michael Ferguson.

“I understand that many Tasmanians would not understand just how organised these groups are in serious crimes and building multi-million dollar drug empires,” Mr Ferguson said.

“There is no doubt that colours are used to intimidate, influence, recruit, promote and mark out territory. We will act to address this by banning them in public and curtailing outlaw gang activity.”

Public submissions about the legislation need to be made in writing by May 11.

They will then be published online by Tasmania Police by May 18.

For more information visit www.police.tas.gov.au