An examination of outlaw motorcycle gangs and their involvement in the illicit drug market and the effectiveness of anti-association legislative responses
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Background: In 2013 the Queensland Government introduced criminal association and mandatory sentencing laws for members of outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs). Forms of “criminal association” or “anti-bikie” laws have been introduced in several Australian jurisdictions, and recent High Court decisions upholding their constitutionality will ensure that they remain part of our justice landscape. Generally, the aims of these laws are to declare a specific organisation as “criminal” and impose various legal orders and offences that thwart the consorting of members and address organised crime, such as unexplained wealth regimes. There have been significant criticisms of these styles of association laws both here and internationally. The aim of this research is to show the extent of involvement of OMCGs in the drug trade and associated organised crime activity, and whether anti-association laws are an effective response to this type of organised criminal activity.
Methods: This paper relied on six years of data outlining the criminal activity of OMCGs from the Queensland Police Service (QPS) obtained under the legislative framework of The Queensland Right to Information Act (RTI) 2009. Information obtained from the Queensland Commission into Organised Crime (2015) and Queensland Taskforce into organised crime legislation (2015) was also used.
Results: The data suggest that the role of OMCGs in the drug market has been overstated and is not as dominant as has been portrayed by government agencies and the popular media. Generally, OMCGs account for less than one percent of organised crime type activity. This is also true for drug type offences where OMCGs are responsible for less than one percent of offences. The findings show that the Queensland example has highlighted the ineffectiveness of the criminal association laws and the mandatory sentencing provisions in that they have had little impact on drug market activity and little success in the courts.
Conclusion: The analysis presented here is twofold: an examination of the legal ramifications and an evaluation of the investigative utility of such laws from a policy evaluation standpoint. In both cases, there is little evidence to suggest that these laws are an effective or appropriate response.
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This document has been peer reviewed.