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Gang colours form of intimidation: Crown

June 10, 2009

Gang colours form of intimidation: Crown

Hells Angels patch about expression, defence lawyer says

A provincial law against wearing gang colours in bars is like a dress code that does not prevent Hells Angels from wearing their insignia in places not licensed to sell alcohol, a Crown lawyer said Tuesday.  

Jesse Bitz, a full-patch member of the Saskatoon chapter of the Hells Angels, is fighting the law on the grounds it infringes his charter right to freedom of expression and is overly broad.

The patches, worn exclusively by Hells Angels members or those going through the multi-year process of becoming full-patch members, constitute a form of expression, which could even be considered political expression, defence lawyer Mark Brayford argued before provincial court Judge Albert Lavoie.

The “power of the patch” is in its intimidating effect on people who see it, said Leonard Isnor, an expert in outlaw biker gangs, who testified Tuesday.

Intimidation is not a form of expression, said Crown prosecutor Graeme Mitchell.

If the court finds the patches constitute expression, the value of that expression is over-ridden by the government’s objective of limiting intimidation, said Mitchell.

Mitchell referred to a previous case involving a former Saskatoon stripper bar in which the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal found the exotic dancing was a form of expression but upheld a provincial prohibition of nude dancing in bars.

The gang colours prohibition falls under the heavily regulated area of liquor licensing in Saskatchewan and does not apply to other, non-licensed businesses such as coffee shops, Mitchell said.

The challenge is being brought as the Crown attempts to prosecute the first gang colours case under Saskatchewan’s 2005 Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act.

The law was created to help police deal with gangs, drug trafficking, prostitution and child exploitation, but Brayford said its wording is so broad it could include striking workers, wearing union logos on their clothes, who meet after refusing to follow a court order to return to work.

Mitchell called that suggestion “an extravagant interpretation of the legislation.”

“We’re dealing here with the Hells Angels patch. You can’t divorce the facts of this case from the analysis,” Mitchell said.

Five other Hells Angels who received the same provincial citation await the outcome of the case. They are Allen J. Farago, Daro James Hunt, Rodger C. Nelson, Kevin W. Pattison and Robert A. Wick.

Lavoie will hand down a written decision in October.

badam@sp.canwest.com

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 5, 2010 12:44 am

    When will the discrimination end? It wont..

    When will people just be themselves? They wont, would rather look like us..

    When will most people realize its about riding and the friendships… ITS not a competition!

    We all do when we grow up 🙂

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