What you need to know about the new organised crime laws – consorting and wearing of patches and jewellery
Explanatory notes for the current governments organised crime laws have been released. The lengthy document outlines the laws proposed by the ‘Serious and Organised Crime Legislation Amendment Bill 2016’ which is to replace VLAD. Irish Bentley throughout the coming days will provide a brief outline of what to expect from these laws. Firstly, you can expect the following new criminal offences.
This is a new offence for people who consort with recognised offenders. The maximum penalty for this offence will be 3 years imprisonment. Before being charged, police must warn that the person they are consorting with has a criminal conviction. This offence is a ‘reverse onus’ offence which means that a person charged must demonstrate that the consorting was reasonable under the circumstances in order to successfully defend the charge.
The notes admit that this offence may breach a person’s freedom to associate and raises issues of police breaching privacy. However, the current government says this is necessary and justified because of its ‘narrow’ scope and the available defence. The scope of this offence does not extend to “employment”, “ordinary civic life” and “family”.
2 people work together and become friends outside of work. Person 1 has a criminal conviction and has not told Person 2. Police warn Person 2 that they are consorting with a criminal. Person 2 is at risk of 6 months imprisonment if the friendship is maintained with Person 1.
WEARING OR CARRYING PROHIBITED ITEMS OFFENCE
This offence prohibits the wearing or carrying of ‘prohibited items’ in a public place in a way that can be seen. Also it will be an offence if the prohibited items is in or on a vehicle and can be seen from a public place. This offence is punishable by 6 months imprisonment or 9 months imprisonment if it is a second offence. Fines exceeding $12,000.00 may also be imposed.
Prohibited items are defined as jewellery or accessory that displays the name of a declared criminal organisation or club patch, insignia or logo of a declared criminal organisation. This definition includes abbreviations, acronyms or other forms of writing that indicate membership. The government says that this offence is necessary to protect the community from fear and intimidation and to reduce the likelihood of acts of public violence and disorder.
A defence is available where someone can show that the offending conduct was for an artistic, educational, legal or law enforcement purpose. The circumstances for offending needs to be reasonable. This offence also grants powers for automatic forfeiture of property.
A person is walking in public wearing or carrying an item which police think references a declared criminal organisation. That person is it at risk of criminal charges and must show that the police are mistaken or that it is artistic, educational, legal or for the purpose of law enforcement.
Irish Bentley are extremely concerned about the impact that these laws may have and will be using their experience to protect those who will inevitably be charged under these new offences.
Stay tuned for more updates about these laws.