Page 5277 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 29 November 2017

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Despite the concerted efforts of a dedicated unit within the Gangs Squad of the NSW Police Force, which spent over three years preparing applications in preparation for declarations under the 2012 Act, no application has yet been brought to Court. As a result, no organisation has been declared to be a criminal organisation under the scheme. The NSW Police Force advised us that work on these applications ceased in 2015, and that it does not intend to resource such work in the future.

The Ombudsman found that the procedural requirements for the criminal organisations control regime were onerous, resource intensive and involved difficulties that ultimately prevented police making an application to the court. It was found that police in other states and territories have experienced similar difficulties in successfully implementing comparable legislation. At the time of publication of the report, no declarations had been made in relation to any organisations.

The Greens believe the recent measures taken by the government will be more effective in targeting OMCG-related activity. These measures have been welcomed by ACT Policing, and the Greens are supportive of them. Yesterday the Assembly passed the Crimes (Police Powers and Firearms Offence) Amendment Bill 2017, which creates a new offence to capture drive-by shootings. This new offence will better target situations where a person shoots at a building, including homes and businesses. As we noted yesterday, previously it has been difficult to prove an offence where shootings have been aimed at empty buildings. This new offence will capture OMCG activity where drive-by shootings are often done to intimidate members of rival gangs.

The bill passed yesterday has also given police new power to secure a crime scene, as we discussed, and this will enable police to better gather evidence and prevent it from being destroyed or removed from a crime scene. The ability to preserve evidence is fundamental for police to be able to conduct investigations. I believe this new power is a practical measure which will assist police to investigate and disrupt OMCG activity in Canberra.

The government’s bill was developed in consultation with ACT Policing and in response to specific incidents where police identified gaps in their ability to investigate and disrupt OMCG activity. Yesterday’s bill, along with the resources the government has given ACT Policing through Taskforce Nemesis, will be effective in combating OMCG activity.

I also have concerns about the broadness of the definition of an “organisation” and how long a declaration is in place for. The definition is so broad in this bill that it will almost inevitably apply to a variety of unincorporated associations and loose groupings of people. The bill does not effectively introduce a scheme whereby members of an organisation are given proper notice before their organisation is declared a criminal organisation. As a result of that declaration, those individuals can be subject to intrusive control orders being brought against them in the Supreme Court. Having such a broad definition will make it very difficult for police to effectively use these laws.

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