Core concerns relate to mandatory sentences, reversal of onus of proof, arbitrary detention, government interference with the judiciary, and the ability to use these new laws against any association (not just “bikies”) – for the full story, the link is:http://www.amnesty.org.au/news/comments/33255/
The main issues of concern to Amnesty are:
- Queensland’s new bikie laws do away with the notion of innocent until proven guilty which could lead to arbitrary detentions and an undermining of the independence of the judiciary.
- Amnesty is concerned prosecutions under the new Queensland bikie laws fail to meet international fair trial standards.
- The laws give mandatory sentences of up to 25 years in addition to a standard sentence where a person is accused of being a member and/or officer of a criminal association.
- Broad laws cover all associations, not just bikies: There is no mention of bikes or criminal activity in the definition of association.
“One of the major issues we have is the language of the Act is so broad that in Amnesty International’s experience, they are open to abuse,” said Michael Hayworth, Amnesty International Australia spokesperson.
- Guilty until proven innocent? The laws reverse the burden of proof, forcing those accused of being ‘vicious lawless associates’ or ‘office bearers’ of the association to prove that they are not participants in criminal associations. This severely undermines the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty that all Queenslanders enjoy. A ‘vicious lawless associate’ is then sentenced to 15 years jail on top of the sentence they receive for the declared offence. If the person is an officer of the association and cannot prove otherwise they are liable to a further ten years.
- Arbitrary detention: The changes to the bail laws mean that courts have little option but to refuse bail to those accused of participating in criminal organisations, unless the person demonstrates reasons that they should not be in jail.
“There are two problems here: (1) the burden of proof is reversed, meaning the accused person has to prove they should not be in custody rather than the state proving they should be in jail; and (2) people have the right not to be in prison, even before a trial, unless it is proven to be necessary,” Hayworth warned.
- Interference with the judiciary
“Amnesty International is calling for the legislation to either be reversed or completely overhauled to address these serious breaches of human rights,” Hayworth added.